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More could be done

Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Peter Maguire outside the Emerald flood inquiry sittings.
Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Peter Maguire outside the Emerald flood inquiry sittings.

AN ongoing report investigating the impact Ensham Mine’s levee banks played during the 2010 flood is being compiled and will be submitted to the Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry, Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Peter Maguire said.

Cr Maguire took the stand in the last day of the Emerald inquiry sittings on Wednesday, and said the CHRC had learnt invaluable lessons following the 2008 flood.

He conceded, however, there was “probably more to be done”.

The inquiry heard of information sessions the CHRC held following the 2008 event, at which residents criticised the inadequate communication between the council and residents about predicted water heights.

Cr Maguire said since then, the Local Disaster Management Group had implemented a 160-character SMS alert system, which residents on holidays overseas received.

There were faults with the system, he said, including the limited characters able to be sent and that recipients were dependant on the postcode their phone bill was delivered to rather than satellite connections.

Additionally, the lack of mobile coverage in Rolleston meant those residents did not receive the SMSs, and was something the CHRC was in the process of fixing with the State Government and Telstra.

The installation of a third river gauge on Vandyke Creek could potentially give 24 hours extra notice to Emerald residents.

Council’s disaster management co-ordinator Bill Wilkinson, the last witness called in the Emerald sittings, said the LDMG worked extensively with independent and government hydrologists to determine the flood level.

“It’s not perfect science, you’re trying to get your head around the rainfall and what run-off actually has been generated,” he said.

He told the inquiry it took around 30 minutes for the hydrologists to reach a consensus with regards to river heights which could then be relayed to residents.

But despite receiving regular updates through various methods, residents were slow to evacuate their homes, he said, and singled out the Emerald Hospital which Mr Wilkinson viewed as having left the evacuation of patients too late.

In his view, he said, hospital staff should simply have moved patients upstairs in the building after a survey tour of water heights of Emerald had been completed.

The LDMG will meet again on June 8.


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