Gate malfunction details to be heard

Floodwaters around the Mary River Marina and Muddy Waters Cafe - Tony Hosking and Nina Arnold who live on a houseboat on the Mary River inspect the flooding.
Floodwaters around the Mary River Marina and Muddy Waters Cafe - Tony Hosking and Nina Arnold who live on a houseboat on the Mary River inspect the flooding. Alistair Brightman Ha

THE Queensland Floods Commission of Inquiry in Maryborough is expected to hear details this afternoon of a gate malfunction at Lenthall Dam that may have put hundreds of people at risk.

WideBayWater engineering director Peter Care will take to the witness stand this afternoon to discuss problems with the dam that first emerged in a flood in 2008, and re-occurred during the January floods this year.

The Commission of Inquiry will move to Gympie tomorrow.

Flood of complaints

THE MAYOR, council staff and emergency services abandoned Maryborough businesses during the January floods, according to statements to be presented at the Queensland Flood Commission of Inquiry today.

In a scathing statement to the Commission, Mary River Marine Supplies and Chandlery owner Bill Brown said despite several requests for help, authorities including Fraser Coast Regional Mayor Mick Kruger were nowhere to be found when the waters rose.

"We did not receive any assistance from emergency services including police, council or SES," Mr Brown said in the report, as he described the day the waters inundated his business for a second time.

"I rang the police to see if we could get assistance to have the road closed, however police referred me to the council. I then attempted to ring the council however could not get through."

About 11am on January 8, Mr Brown said he was forced to cut a hole in the side of the building to remove goods as the water was swirling at head-height - and still no official help came, with only volunteers left to rescue his business.

"I requested someone to get onto the Mayor for help. I was later advised he could not be found," Mr Brown's statement said. According to his statement, Mr Brown asked Cr Kruger to visit the Marina on January 8, but the Mayor refused - only visiting two weeks later as part of a tour with Minister Simon Crean and the media.

"The mayor and the council completely abandoned us during this flood and did not offer or provide any assistance at this time," Mr Brown said.

The proprietor of Muddy Waters Cafe, Michael Cox, said his business went under without warning.

"We did not receive any advice, warning or assistance from any government agency or body, and were left to evacuate by ourselves and try to remove as much of our property as we could before everything was underwater," Mr Cox said in his statement to the Commission.

"This was the first flood evacuation I had experienced and in my opinion there was nothing done by authorities in preparation for what happened."

Mr Cox said in his statement that he saw 40 to 50 employees putting up barriers at Woolworths, but they never offered him any help to protect his business, which was out about $90,000 and was closed for three months.

He said he put the poor response from council down to amalgamation, because it "seemed as if Maryborough has been forgotten about and is not being included."

Wallace Motel and Caravan Park owner John Kennedy said he gave a witness statement saying he was frightened to realise there were no disaster management plans in place, only disaster recovery plans.

"The decision to evacuate was made by us as we did not receive any warnings at all or advice from anybody about evacuation," Mr Kennedy said.

"We did not receive any assistance from government or other local agencies in the preparation or response stages of the flood and I do not believe that the community was adequately prepared for what happened in January 2011."

The business owners and a number of other witnesses, including Fraser Coast Regional Council staff, will attend the Queensland Flood Commission of Inquiry's Maryborough hearing at the Maryborough Council Chambers today.

Topics:  january floods maryborough queensland flood commission

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