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Spirits soar as rain dampens big event

BIG WET: St Joey's students delight in the wet weather after rain forced the school to cancel its Big Night Out event.
BIG WET: St Joey's students delight in the wet weather after rain forced the school to cancel its Big Night Out event. Julia Baker

ST JOEY'S Primary School was putting the finishing touches on the school's biggest annual event on the weekend when dark storm clouds rolled in and the heavens opened, dumping more than 20mm of rain on Chinchilla.

St Joesph's primary school's P and F Association was forced to cancel most of its annual Big Night Out program when much of the school's oval was inundated with water.

The rain may have put a dampener on the event but spirits ran high with the school community rallying together to make the best of a bad, and rather wet, situation.

"Obviously the event had to be reconfigured and adjusted because of the weather conditions but we were able to think on our feet to create an opportunity for the many people who came to come down and enjoy themselves and everyone had a good time,” P and F Association president Kevin Brennan said.

"We certainly were aware of the forecast...but the decision was made to set up irrespective, we were 98% ready to go when the heavy storm hit but the intensity of the rainfall meant the storm water drain did run and the oval got flooded and we had to make the difficult decision to call off and we relocated everything up to the closer to the school.

"I think it was well enjoyed by everyone that came along, even though it was not in the format we originally planned.”

It's not the first time rainfall has flooded the school's oval with Saturday's incident caused by a long term issue with a lack of storm water drainage on surrounding streets.

Ironically, the Big Night Out event was being held in a bid to raise funds to fix what has been an ongoing problem for the school.

St Joseph's Primary School principal Aaron Wells said the flooding was not only inconvenient but posed a safety risk to students.

"There is no official piping essentially, the rainfall is collected from around all of the surrounding streets and then ends up on the oval,” he said.

"It's become a big issue over recent years in terms of things overflowing onto the oval...a whole number of things from those drains, so it poses a safety issue for the students.

"It's disappointing for parents and our P and F members who have put so many hours of preparation and planning into the event.”

Western Downs Regional Council said it is working with the school on plans to construct piping to redirect the storm water to Charley's Creek.

Mr Brennan said there is an increased need to address the problem quickly because the school is expanding.

"I think it's been a long-recognised issue that the current configuration or the current passage of storm water has a serious impact on the oval and the kids ability to utilise it as a venue,” he said.

"The oval itself is a beautiful soil that drains very well but when it is flooded it stays wet for an extended period.

"We are certainly very keen to work with council to come up with a solution to the problem because Joey's is expanding, we are growing in student numbers so there is an increased need to address the issue.

"We would appreciate the opportunity to work with council to do something quickly to avoid what we saw at the weekend.

"We understand there is a budget allocation for this year and we'd certainly be keen to see this addressed and the natural window for us is the Christmas break as it's fairly major works and we will be talking to council to see what's possible in this case.”

Council staff were on site at the school this week assessing the situation but WDRC Mayor Paul McVeigh said the issue is a "difficult one to resolve”.

He said it appeared that at this stage only minimal improvements can be made at an "immense” cost.

Council are currently reviewing the impact of rain events within the storm water catchment from Charley's Creek to Price St to the east of Chinchilla and in and around Helena and Heeney Sts where properties are most impacted during storm events.

"We've had our design team out there yesterday (Tuesday),” he said.

"They've (council staff) have had a good look at it and we are certainly going to investigate, we're going to have a crack at it. Obviously our goal as a council is to improve the liveability of our region and that includes sports facilities and schools.

"It's been a long term problem from the old Chinchilla Shire Council days.

"The old design for that oval was to become a containment area in the event of big rain events, the aim is to improve the storm water impact on surrounding and adjacent properties by localised drainage improvements but it is anticipated the works will only provide minimal improvement upstream.”

Mr Brennan said despite the challenges posed by wet weather the rain was most welcomed by the St Joey's school community, particularly its farming families.

"There is no doubt about it, the rain is welcomed by the broader community and particularly the farming community and definitely one of the reasons we deciding to continue was to celebrate the rain,” he said.


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