The flood waters have receded but the governmental clean-up of those involved in the management of Queensland’s waterways continues. After 31 different meetings of public consultation across the state, the interim report of the inquiry into the 2011 Queensland floods was handed down yesterday to Premier Anna Bligh.
The floods devastated the Lockyer Valley, Toowoomba and Brisbane, leaving 35 confirmed dead with another nine missing, presumed dead. The royal commissionesque inquiry noted the Queensland government’s lack of readiness for an event of January’s magnitude, as well as confusion and dysfunction led by the water minister and Wivenhoe Dam authorities. You can read the majority of the inquiry’s recommendations here.
Queensland’s Water Utilities Minister Stephen Robertson is copping much of the flak over his failure to fix confusion over whether the Wivenhoe Dam needed to release water pre-floods. In October, the Bureau of Meteorology passed on information that higher-than-average rainfall was expected in the coming months.
“The interim flood report found Mr Robertson had failed to clear up the confusion about who should respond to his request for information and did not do enough to pursue the proposal to lower water levels in the dam,” reports Sarah Vogler in The Courier-Mail.
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“I believe I did my job. I acted on the advice from my agencies as it was provided by me. Was it the best advice? Well I accept that that finding from the commission that it wasn’t the best advice but we learn from those experiences.”
Robertson is retiring at the next election but he’s not the only one getting the blame for mishandling the Wivenhoe Dam. In fact, the inquiry found that the authorities of Wivenhoe Dam “breached” the official manual regarding water releases. As Hedley Thomas and Roseanne Barrett explain in The Australian:
“The breach occurred because the flood engineers did not rely on ‘forecast rainfall’ when they were determining the timing and volume of dam releases at critical stages of the flood event.
During periods of very heavy rain and with more forecast by the Bureau of Meteorology, the engineers made relatively low releases based on a ‘no further rainfall’ model instead of the manual’s requirement to be using ‘the best forecast rainfall’.”
This manual breach could open the door for compensation claims by homes and business ravaged by the floods, the most critical element to come out of the inquiry, writes Hedley Thomas in The Australian:
“What difference might compliance have made? That question might only be answered in the courts.
Meanwhile, Brisbane Council has narrowed its plans to five designs for rebuilding Brisbane’s Riverwalk. The riverwalk is expected to be completed by 2014 and will cost between an estimated $54-75 million, reports Sarah Vogler in The Courier-Mail.