Billions Being Poured Into ‘Band-Aid Solutions’ for Flood Problems: Expert

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A flood historian has called on authorities to stop people from moving into flood plains following another major deluge that saw thousands of homes inundated and over AU$2.5 billion (US$1.9 billion) of damage in southeast Queensland.

Margaret Cook, author of A River with a City Problem: A History of Brisbane Floods, said billions of dollars were being poured into “band-aid solutions” to fix damaged roads, rail lines, ferries, and ferry terminals.

“We’re going to spend millions and millions and months and months fixing stuff,” the lecturer at the University of Sunshine Coast told The Epoch Times. “What I’m saying is don’t fix it back the same way. We spend 93 percent of our dollars on recovery and seven percent on preparation.”

“If we even started spending maybe 40 percent of our money on moving people or redesigning cities, then in the longer term, it would be more cost-effective,” she said.

Epoch Times Photo
A man carries a child through floodwaters in Vincent Street, Auchenflower in Brisbane, Australia, on March 3, 2022 (Peter Wallis/Getty Images)

Cook said Queensland was prone to flooding, particularly its capital Brisbane, which is built around the Brisbane River. She noted, however, that recent rainfall in February and March had been very “intense.”

“I’m not exaggerating. Last month, some parts of Brisbane got over 1,000 millimetres of rain in three days. To give you context, our average annual rainfall is about 1,114 millimetres,” she said.

Ipswich, west of Brisbane, received around 580 millimetres of rain in just two days, which Cook said would be “unbelievable” for countries like the United Kingdom.

As a result, major insurer Suncorp says it has received over 38,000 claims and has employed an extra 700 staff. The federal government is also providing disaster payments to around 242,000 individuals.

Flooding in southeast Queensland comes from three main sources. One is riverine flooding—overflows from major rivers like the Brisbane River, which can be mitigated by dams.

The second is when the creek network surrounding the Brisbane River swells—currently, 22 creeks are connected to the river. A third is “overland flow”—when the stormwater system cannot cope with the sheer volume of water.

Epoch Times Photo
A road closed sign in a flooded Torwood Street, Auchenflower in Brisbane, Australia, on March 3, 2022. (Peter Wallis/Getty Images)

These last two sources are located downstream from major dams in Brisbane, so other mitigation methods are needed instead.

Former Queensland Premier and Brisbane Mayor Campbell Newman have revealed that a 2014 plan to build two additional dams and raise the height of Wivenhoe Dam—a major source of water for Brisbane—was scuppered by the incoming Labor government when he lost the election in 2015.

The report was put together by the state’s then-Department of Energy and Water Supplies following the devastating 2011 floods.

“Analysis indicates that with appropriate infrastructure in place, potentially 8,000–10,000 fewer buildings would be inundated in Brisbane and Ipswich in a reoccurrence of any of the three largest historical Brisbane River dominated floods when compared to the current situation,” the report read.

One proposal was designed to counteract some of the floodings through the creek network by building a dam on lower Warrill Creek, southwest of Ipswich.

Cook said a “whole suite” of work needed to be carried out.

“Retrofitting houses is really effective to some extent,” she said, pointing to work by the Brisbane City Council and James Davidson Architects.

“They’re replacing chipboards—that get badly damaged in a flood—with hardwood or metal you can clean that. If you put in concrete floors, you can flush them out,” she said. “Most of our houses have power points at ground level, if you move them higher up the wall, you don’t lose all your electricals.”

She noted that this was only effective for smaller floods—for bigger floods she said the solution would be to simply stop allowing people to live in dangerous areas.

“Some parts of Brisbane, say, for example, Rocklea—a very vulnerable area both in terms of flood severity and the vulnerability of the people who live there—they get flooded every single time,” she said. “And yet we just let them move back.”

“Campbell Newman, when he was mayor, did actually have a programme of moving houses, and I think that’s something we’ve got to start doing.”

Daniel Y. Teng

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Daniel Y. Teng is based in Sydney. He focuses on national affairs including federal politics, COVID-19 response, and Australia-China relations. Got a tip? Contact him at daniel.teng@epochtimes.com.au.



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