Rustic Gallery owner Rob O’Brien with lost licence plates. Picture: Guanhao Cheng

Flood frustrations on Clayton Street

Rustic Gallery owner Rob O'Brien says he has had enough of his Clayton Street shop floor being submerged.
June 13, 2024
Guanhao Cheng

BELLEVUE’S Rustic Gallery owner Rob O’Brien found his shopfront flooded and the street a veritable lake last Thursday and says he has had enough.

Mr O’Brien has operated his business for 22 years and said it’s a problem that’s existed since then but having been recently diagnosed with an aggressive stomach cancer at 75 years old, there’s no time left to be patient.

“I am not putting up with another minute of this,” he said.

“My shop’s been flooded three times in three weeks.

“It’s soul breaking because I wanted to sell the business in August, and the flood has undone six months of clean-up work and created six more months of work at a minimum.”

Mr O’Brien took to his Rustic Gallery business Facebook page on June 7, the day after the most recent flooding, to detail its impact on his business, and also reached out to Midland’s community notice board to share his story.

Commenters sympathised with Mr O’Brien’s case, with other community members asking why more solutions had not been found.

Echo News paid a visit to the Rustic Gallery on June 10, where Mr O’Brien showcased the water damages four days after the flooding.

Woodchips were strewn alongside antique items, pooling along the edges of his property’s walkway drains and lurking underneath his display items, in difficult to reach nooks.

Mr O’Brien pointed to a pallet with heavy gear on it, then gestured at his yard of antique collectibles sitting on tall metal displays, and said it wasn’t easy to get the shop ready to be sold on.

“We had to move everything,” he said.

“To properly clean up the shop, you’d have to lift the pallet, move it, put it back, and get under everything. It’s a terrible job.

“Now, we’re back to how it looked before the clean-up.”

Mr O’Brien had reached out to the City of Swan for help but found communication with the city very inaccessible, and felt his claims weren’t being appropriately addressed time and time again.

“The attitude the city has had towards my problems has been very poor,” he said.

“One guy even had the nerve to joke the flooding would make my antiques worth more because of the rust it would cause.”

Mr O’Brien showed Echo News the front of his property on Clayton Street, where the street was entirely flooded, and pointed out the shopping centre next-door where woodchips were scattered beneath the hedges lining the centre’s carpark.

“I’ve asked the city numerous times to either extend the half-wall so that the water can redirect the woodchips away from my home during floods, or to replace the woodchips with something that doesn’t float so well, like pea gravel,” he said.

“They forwarded me on to the shopping centre management, who I spoke to, who have then forwarded me back to the city.

“I don’t know who can make that call and nobody seems to want to solve my problem, so I’m stuck.”

AVS Engineering workshop manager Vaughn South works just two streets down and agreed the flooding was a major and reoccurring issue.

“It’s not like this is just something that happens once. It’s every winter. And who’s to say this is the last flood we’ll experience? It’s only June,” he said.

“The water just can’t get away. Clayton Street becomes a river and Wells Street follows on; we’re just about one street back.

“Last Thursday, on Clayton, you’d see at least a 500m stretch of road with water about 300ml, and you’d see a bow wave as you drive through.”

Mr O’Brien had picked up three license plates that had been washed off as cars “ploughed through” the water on Thursday.

Two plates have been collected since he advertised them on Facebook and the final plate hangs at the front fence of his shop, awaiting retrieval.

Mr South said the water had lapped up on the door of the AVS Engineering office on the night of the flood.

“If you talk to all the people on Wells Street, they’ll tell you the same. The drainage is either blocked or inadequate and the city and Main Roads should have adequate storm water drainage,” he said.

“Somebody needs to go and investigate.”

Mr South said he hoped Mr O’Brien’s flooding problem could be solved.

“I feel sorry for the poor old fella at the antique, because it’s killing him,” he said.

“Someone has to do something because it’s not good enough and he doesn’t want all his stuff inundated.

“He’s getting on in years, and he’s under chemo, and shouldn’t have to clear out his shop every time it rains.”

City of Swan Mayor Tanya Richardson said the city had received correspondence from Mr O’Brien and was continuing to work on solutions.

“We have attended the site to help with the flooding issues this month,” she said.

“The drainage in this location flows to an open drain within the rail reserve behind these properties. This open drain is not performing as it should and requires maintenance.

“The city is unable to access the open drain for required maintenance without the permission of Arc Infrastructure. We need approval to enter their land along with coordination with rail spotters and timing of freight rail movements to undertake work on the drain in the rail corridor.”

She said a potential long-term solution is also being investigated and would likely need to involve the city, Arc Infrastructure and the Public Transport Authority.

“It may also require the involvement of the nearby shopping centre, as the pipe that feeds from the reported flooding area to the restricted open drain runs through shopping centre-owned land,” she said.

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