Flooding is one of Australia’s most deadly natural hazards and has been responsible for billions of dollars worth of damages from the 1960s to the present. For the most part, our floods can be attributed to heavier rainfall than the nearby catchments can contain. This is a natural process that we can never completely be rid of. All we can do is implement mitigation techniques to ensure that we lose as little as possible (in terms of lives and property) when these inevitable floods occur. In absence of these measures, the consequences are dire.
The 2010-2011 Floods
From late 2010 to early 2011, Queensland was hit with massive flooding that killed three people, affected more than 200,000 people and resulted in over $2B worth of damages. In Bundaberg, 300 homes were evacuated after the Burnett River flooded the city and the port was forced to close until March 2011.
The 2013 Floods
For communities that had only just finished recovering from the floods of 2010, this was a terrible blow. Ex-Tropical Storm Oswald sparked a chain reaction of natural disasters that led to the city’s worst floods on record. The Burnett River released floodwaters of up to 3m depth in parts of North Bundaberg and flowed at speeds of roughly 70km/h. Thousands of homes and businesses were inundated and over 1000 residents needed to be airlifted to safety. Six people lost their lives.
The floods themselves are not new. There are records of heavy floods in 1841, 1844, 1845 and 1852 in Brisbane and/or Ipswich. Similarly, in 1857 the river rose almost four metres in Brisbane while in Ipswich it rose close to 14 metres. Large expanses of low lying residential and commercial properties were submerged. What has changed is the way the land is being used in many of these areas and the intensity of the storms that our region will have to face.
Knowing the extent of the risk faced by Bundaberg’s residents has not led to a significant increase in protection. From 2013 to now there have been studies and plans but very little has been done to make residents any safer than they were in 2010 or 2013. This is woefully inadequate. Worse yet, the levee being planned will deliver little additional protection at a massive upfront cost with staggering ongoing maintenance costs.
As once in a lifetime disasters become steadily more frequent, it is our responsibility to ensure that our voices are heard on matters that affect us as a community. When it comes to flood mitigation, we really can’t afford to get this wrong. Join us in finding solutions that work.