With the flood waters subsiding, Queenslanders are beginning to think about rebuilding their towns and cities and discussion from academics, politicians and urban planners on appropriate places to rebuild starting to rumble.
Brisbane Lord Mayor Campbell Newman thinks his Council has set the mark. “I am very confident that my administration … has implemented some measures in the last four years to really tighten up those planning issues,” he said. “I reckon there will be a need in other parts of the state for tightening up as well in the same way Brisbane has.”
In 2008 the Birsbane City Council offered to buy back homes of residents in some of the most flood-prone areas of the city such as Rocklea, which was largely under water last week. But some home owners at the time were calling for money to raise their houses.
A list of prominent hydrologists and engineers have put their two cents in, with many criticising past and present Queensland governments for letting planners build in low-lying areas or not preparing residents already in those areas.
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Professor Andrew Short, Director of the Coastal Studies Unit at the University of Sydney told Crikey that Australian governments should spend money on better planning and infrastructure to avoid flooding or be prepared to deal with a crisis, similar to that of the Queensland floods.
Short said state and federal governments should prepare for more frequent flooding in Australia and should abandon a model which plans for a one in 100 year flood, if they do not want a repeat of the 2011 Queensland floods.
“What we’re seeing is crisis management and it is far better to not have that happen and to plan for this crisis,” Short told Crikey. “You need to weigh up cost of money to plan for floods and then the loss of life and money that is lost in a crisis.”
He said similar to Hurricane Katrina in the United States, the Queensland floods were predictable, and past and present state governments should have done more to protect the region.
“In the 36 years they have allowed more development in that area, putting people in a flood prone areas,” Short said. “They have done very little, apart from building that dam to protect the Brisbane area.”
But CEO of the Urban Development Institute of Australia (Qld) Brian Stewart said while floods may occur more frequently than once in 100 years, it’s better to rely on the data that is available.
“It’s possible to have two or more [floods] in 100 years, but then we may not have another for 300 years,” he told Crikey.
Stewart praised the response from political leaders and said he does expect a reconsideration of planning policies within the Commission of Inquiry into the Queensland floods announced by Premier Anna Bligh.
He signalled support for tighter planning policies, such as buy backs in flood prone areas and further limitations on where houses could be built, would help flood mitigation.
“We need to take a calm, hard and objective look at what has happened in this particular circumstance because it has a impact on the social and economic stance of this city,” Stewart said.
With the loss of thousands of homes and businesses in Queensland in the past month, he expects the Commission to ensure improvements to the science and flood mitigation will take into account the cost to the community will bear to improve them.
Last week Bligh told reporters many of the affected areas in the 2011 floods didn’t even exist in 1974, such as Southbank and the Eagle St Pier.
”The city is much bigger, much more populated and has many parts under flood that didn’t even exist in 1974 … We are still looking at an event which will cripple parts of our city,” she said.
Yesterday Bligh announced the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, will be in charge of most of these decisions.
Bligh said the Authority will ” determine, in some cases, whether we should be rebuilding exactly the same thing in exactly the same place, whether it’s a bridge, or whether it’s a suburb”.