More Bipartisan Flood Mitigation Projects in Challenging Times?
By Denis Bright
Delivering financial support for sustainable infrastructure were recommendations of the Morrison Government’s Inquiry into the future of our cities in 2018. Commitment to sustainability in an era of profound climate change receives 363 mentions in the Building Up & Moving Out Report.
These changes cannot be left to the states and territories alone. This is a real challenge locally when 50.2 per cent of state revenue in Queensland’s 2021-22 budget is derived from the Commonwealth in combined grants and CST allocations. Queensland’s own taxation revenue is merely 27.3 per cent of current budget revenue.
The projected deficit exceeds $6 billion but the urgency of both sustainable planning and flood mitigation have never been greater.
In some of my previous articles for The AIM Network, I also had reservations about the South East Queensland (SEQ) Regional Plan 2017 and its capacity to deliver the ambitious stated goals without more federal financial assistance. The planning mechanisms ploughed on with some lofty goals which were not supported by adequate financial assistance:
ShapingSEQ provides a regional framework for growth management, and sets planning direction for sustainable growth, global economic competitiveness and high-quality living by:
- identifying a long-term sustainable pattern of development which focuses more growth in existing urban areas
- harnessing regional economic strengths and clusters to compete globally
- ensuring land use and infrastructure planning are integrated
- valuing and protecting the natural environment, productive land, resources, landscapes and cultural heritage
- promoting more choice of housing and lifestyle options
- locating people and jobs closer together, and moving people and goods more efficiently and reliably
- promoting vibrant, fair, healthy and affordable living and housing to meet all of the community’s needs
- valuing design and embracing the climate to create high-quality living environments
- maximising the use of existing infrastructure and planning for smarter solutions for new infrastructure
- supporting strong rural communities and economic diversification.
At a public seminar organized by the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) in Brisbane on 14 November 2016, the need for more financial commitment from the federal government to support Queensland ShapingSEQ priorities were raised for consideration by representatives from the office of the Director-General of State Planning at the event.
The Queensland Government is committed to working with the Australian Government to establish and implement City Deals for Queensland under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) agreed to on 10 November 2016.
Under the MOU, a comprehensive SEQ City Deal is set to become Queensland’s second tripartite City Deal, following Townsville which became Australia’s historic first City Deal signed in December 2016.
This commitment recognises the significant work already undertaken by the Queensland Government and the Council of Mayors (SEQ) over the past two years. Collectively, this work has already identified a series of regional challenges and outcomes to be addressed under a City Deal for the SEQ region.
Without more federal funding for sustainable urban development, appalling levels of forest clearing were tolerated in the Shaping SEQPlan. Turning hillsides into outer suburban and semi-rural subdivisions accentuates flood run-offs.
The extent of potential greenfield development (new urban expansion) was anticipated by each of the twelve local authorities in SEQ. Established urban areas in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Moreton Bay, Redlands, Sunshine Coast and Noosa were less dependent on new urban expansion. However, many of the semi-rural local authorities became havens for this new expansion. Catchments from these hinterlands feed into the coastal local authorities.
Offering hardship assistance to the victims of flood inundation needs to be supplemented by stronger planning controls on the new town plans of hinterland local authorities. This is not a criticism of the need for essential short-term financial assistance to flood victims.
Services Australia is offering only token financial assistance to the flood victims of SE Queensland (SEQ) and NSW despite some fanfare about the level of generosity in public pronouncements (Services Australia web site):
The Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment is a Lump Sum Payment
Federal Financial Assistance Rates for Major Property Damage
$1,000 per adult
$400 each child younger than 16
In the traditions of the federal LNP for political marketing style of communication, the Prime Minister’s office has grossly inflated the level of emergency assistance offered across Australia by adding COVID-19 relief to total expenditure (PM 27 February 2021).
Most local authorities are fully aware of the risks of the more flood-prone subdivisions where flood market insurance premiums are unbelievably high. In the case of the Moreton Bay Regional Council and some other local authorities, probability estimates of flooding risks are available for most residential addresses. All new riverside residential developments pose potential flooding problems and drainage hazards even if the sites have not been affected by recent flooding problems.
The media office of BWC Group which operates for property developer Peet Limited explained that drainage problems on the Riverbank estate in Caboolture South within the Moreton Bay Regional Council had been minimal during the current flood run-off problems.
Readers can offer their own feedback on the level of financial assistance to flood victims in high-risk localities across other localities in Eastern Australia. The feedback mechanisms offered by The AIM Network will facilitate your comments.
Even before the great Queensland floods of 1893, local authorities and their colonial governments were aware of the financial and emotional costs of major floods and other natural disasters. The liability of local authorities for allowing housing subdivisions in flood prone areas in New Zealand was reviewed by Sean Brennan as part of his honour research programme in law at Victoria University in Wellington in 2015. Here are some concluding remarks of his paper:
Flooding is a significant problem in New Zealand. Its cost is surpassed only by the recent Canterbury earthquakes. Councils and communities have a real interest in protecting against flooding as best they can, but some of these measures will eventually fail, either because natural forces exceed the limits of the works, or because of problems with the protections themselves.
This article demonstrates that councils can be liable for flooding damage in respect of their own torts, but that a non-delegable duty is arguably not owed to general members of the public. This may have the effect that where a property is uninsured and the contractor who did the work leading to the damage is insolvent, the property owner cannot recover. The extent to which councils should be liable ultimately falls to whether the moral obligation of socialising loss outweighs acknowledging individual responsibility to insure one’s own assets.
In the author’s view, while councils should remain liable at least for harm caused by their negligence, it would be more economically effective for individuals to remain responsible for protecting their assets through private insurance policies.
Stricter legislative bans might be considered on new residential subdivision of flood-prone areas. Voluntary purchases of existing flood prone land for community uses are a possibility in situations where owners and landlords cannot afford to continue high rates of disaster insurance. Some residential relocations have already been completed in the township of Grantham in the Lockyer Valley with support from the Queensland Government.
Fulfilling more sustainable planning initiatives is an ongoing challenge throughout Australia in the decades ahead when federal financial support is available to support the planning acts in all states and territories. Let these bipartisan initiatives continue in the interventionist traditions of economic and social economist Noel Butlin (1921-91) whose works predated the debt and deficit rhetoric of the federal LNP’s post-1996 political era in Australia.
Denis Bright is a financial member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to consensus-building in these difficult times. Your feedback from readers advances the cause of citizens’ journalism. Full names are not required when making comments. However, a valid email must be submitted if you decide to hit the Replies Button.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!
854 total views, 2 views today
19 commentsLogin here Register here
Excellent, relevant, a guide to more research and discussion, thus, this will be overlooked by most people, especially those who need to read it and assess their own responsibilities if they are in government, real estate, services, professionally related areas. Australia has a poor record, one of old accepted orthodoxy, in settling on low, arable, flood prone, convenient land, over and over again. Example, the 1974 flood maps of Brisbane, once compiled and superimposed over the 1893 maps, show the horrible bulit in problem. Very new outlooks will have to be considered.
Thanks Denis . A very topical article which promotes discussions about better ways and means to prepare for future flood seasons.
Great article Denis!!!! Yes @ Phil Pryor totally agree with your comment!!!
Sustainable planning and flood mitigations: Better late than never. A really topical article. Thanks Denis for your research work.
Better planning might be the bright sunshine for the protection of future generations. Today’s costs are tomorrow’s gains. The photograph from ABS News is a good start to articles which address problems which have been around in Riverside Brisbane for 200 years now.
Record flooding in places like the Richmond River Estuary in Ballina must be tackled urgently.
Lismore devastated by flooding in 2017 only to be hit by record flooding 5 years later. What can be done to help communities like Lismore to help mitigate the continuing impacts of flooding on the community.
Water, fresh water, from the sky is a commodity . In some regions and in some parts of the world fresh water is scarce and highly valued.
In tiny Singapore with a population the size of Sydney they used to be dependent on Malaysia for fresh water : it used to be piped across from Peninsula Malaysia because natural precipitation was insufficiently reliable to meet the needs of their population and then there was the political risk of the Malaysians turning off the tap.
Now, because of clever engineering, all rain that falls on Singapore that is not otherwise captured finds its way to freshwater reservoirs following drains, culverts, pipes and other engineered methods to ensure that no water is lost and can all be treated and purified for consumption in different ways.
We need to start looking at rainwater as a valuable commodity that we must harvest and manage and store and send it to where it is needed : it’s not that hard but it does take commitment but in the process we can learn to harness and manage these floods.
When I lived in Lismore in 2018-19, I was told that there were significant discussions as far back as the early years of the 20th C around the subject of the flood risk and how to mitigate that. Aerial surveys and cartography were put forward as a proposal to enable engineers and planners to landform and minimise if not annihilate flood risk to the lower parts of the town, later to become city.
These plans were not taken up.
Without for a moment minimising the extent of the current disaster and losses to both property & life, it seems that poor Lismore’s circumstances, along with other northern river communities and SE Qld are yet again another reflection of this country’s reluctance to go the full mile when it comes to safe-guarding its citizens against natural disasters (or GW & climate-change driven, if the word ‘natural is somehow too contentious).
Understandably attractive to settle adjacent to permanent river systems, but wise eyes would appreciate that risks involved, particularly in wet tropical & sub-tropical regions.
What can be done to help those continually impacted by flooding?
Denis, thanks for an interesting commentary about flooding and infrastructure. Local government has an important role in assessing flood risk during development approval and preparing residents in high risk flood zones.
in a cyclone everything is gone, in a fire everything is ashes but in a flood, like 25 years ago helping to clean out the Katherine School of the Air, it is all there but absolutely ruined. I am sad for all those people having to shovel their goods out, clean out the mud and start the cycle again.
Will government actually have plans or just talk about having plans without having planned?
Some land is too subject to flooding. Why was it zoned as commercial and residential in the first place when higher land in many cases was available. Much of the QLD township of Grantham was recently relocated to higher ground after a severe 2011 flood and loss of life. The parts not moved have again been flooded this year. Not all flood-prone townships have this option as they are on vast flood plains with no higher ground nearby. Lismore is surrounded by nearby hills that would support higher density settlement to overcome the flood issue. There are at least 2 choices for Lismore and other townships in a similar situation – rebuild where they are and pay higher and higher premiums each flood season or move up hill and forget about flooding. Not an easy decision as both come with significant costs.
Climate has become a crisis over the decades of the L/NP’s obstruction. Once there is a bipartisan approach to climate then plans can be developed to help protect Australians to the onslaught of a damaged climate.
Sustainable planning offers a new take on the Creedence Clearwater (CCR) themes from “Who’ll Stop the Rain”.
War is back, the worst global pandemic in a century, climate disasters, a slowing global economy with a sharpened class and cultural divide in most countries-Time for a new generation of leaders to take charge of these multiple disasters for humanity.
In the Happy Land of the LNP the subs, and now proposed base, are only going to cost $116 billion. In our reality it will more likely blow out to $200 billion, possibly more. And The Reichspud is going to make certain that it can’t be undone by signing on the dotted line before the election.
GL, call it Happy Land, or La La Land, or Fantasy Island, whatever; these people are a clear and present danger to the Australian community at large. I’d classify them as madmen. Perhaps not clinically certifiable, but most certainly all suffering from cognitive dissonance and a collective refusal to face reality. Their brief, if such a thing exists, is to act specifically in the interests of their community, ie, all Australians.
This includes such critical issues as food security, affordable housing, appropriate healthcare within reach if all, best-practice education as a primary goal to be delivered to all young Australians, and to the extent possible, climate-change proofing – adoption of the technologies that are necessary to enable community resilience in the face of the inexorable changes that are now occurring, viz, fires, floods, heat waves and so on.
How would they rate against these criteria? Pretty fucking poorly, is the best answer.
Instead, Nero-like, we get preoccupation with buying war toys, with spending billions of taxpayer dollars on technologies designed for only one purpose, to kill other human beings. Madness, writ large. And sabre-rattling, big-noting on the world stage, as if the world stage gives a root about muppets like Spudolini bad-mouthing Putin & Xi Jinping, and threatening to send arms to Taiwan.
Jeezuz H Christ! What a turkey! Once a copper, always a copper, I suppose, a mean and venal man viewing life through the lens of a conditioned brain that sees everything as a threat. With a boss whose main theme in life is his own personal enrichment, and screw everyone else, and just lie, lie and lie to achieve that end. What a rotten crop of individuals.
It’s a predetermined conclusion that history will judge this mob,the LNP, as a very poor group who did inestimable damage to the fabric of this country’s society, but that’s cold comfort for the folk living with the impact of these idiots and their behaviour, right now. The Romanian solution seems very attractive, but it won’t happen. I do hope we’ve enough collective sense to vote the bastards out at the next poll, and that the Labor party has the cojones to undo the damage.
Great comments Canguro-Definitely in the spirit of John Curtin who dirfted into power in 1941 without the need for an election when two conservative independents brough doown the Fadden Government. The LNP known then as the UAP put the security of the British Empire over the southward march of the Japanese even prior the attack on Pearl Harbor. John Curtin had a commitment to Australia over commitment to Empire. Albanese is our stalward in this difficult times at home and abroad who need a convincing majority to avoid negotiation on every important issue from the cross-bench members.
The pathetic Liar currently leveraging the ongoing atrocity in Ukraine in a vain attempt to get re elected.There are no depths to which this bottom feeder will not sink.Worse to come.
Pardon the naughty word but, why didn’t the fucking cretin do this a week ago?
Duh, silly me, he was “sick” and it meant he couldn’t do a photo opportunity and make his announcement until today.