FUTURE flood mitigation measures and an inquiry into the Fairbairn Dam will top Member for Flynn Ken O’Dowd’s policy agenda in Canberra.
A series of meetings with residents from the Central Highlands and surrounding areas have given the “bulldog” an insight into what was needed for the region following the summer of disasters.
“First, we have to get the people and the small businesses up and firing again,” he said. “We have to get the infrastructure back up to at least what it was before the floods, and we have to look at how to plan to stop similar events happening in the future. My biggest fear is what if this happens again next year, or the year after that, or in the next five years?”
Mr O’Dowd was joined by Parliamentary Secretary to the Shadow Attorney General Senator Gary Humphries recently for a tour of the Central Highlands and surrounding areas to discuss with residents what the main issues were following the catastrophic summer floods.
While other councils in Queensland expressed a need for earlier warnings for flood events, the same didn’t apply in the Central Highlands, Mr O’Dowd said, as the Central Highlands Regional Council had been commended for its use of SMS alerts and frequent updates.
But an investigation into the Fairbairn Dam’s controlled release during wet seasons was “something that needs to be looked at”.
“Just like there is an inquiry going on into the Wivenhoe Dam in Brisbane, I believe we should have an inquiry of our own into the Fairbairn Dam,” Mr O’Dowd said.
“Just to look at the possibilities (because) at the moment, when the dam is full it goes over the spillway.
“But is there a way of bypassing the water to go over the sides?”
The fact properties in the upper catchment areas alerted the CHRC to the high flood levels, he said, led him to believe the Fairbairn Dam contributed far more to the devastating water levels that engulfed the town.
An inquiry would determine the role the dam played, and he said: “It could answer the question of if the water was let out earlier, would that have reduced the severity of the flood?
“I think that’s the only way you’ll get to the bottom.”
Mr O’Dowd’s sentiment was echoed by Sen Humphries, who went further to call on the Federal Government to release emergency funds to local governments sooner to assist with the disaster recovery.
“There is an enormous commonwealth investment that’s going on in Queensland,” he said.
“The question we have to ask is how well this money is being spent to not only put people back on their feet, but to actually make these communities more resilient in the future.
“I think, when you see communities that have been much the same in flooding year after year, in 2008 and again in 2011, we’ve got to start asking ourselves how we’re building up stronger communities against these sorts of catastrophes.”
Local governments throughout Queensland were facing the same issues during the rebuilding stage, he said, and each was confronted by bureaucratic red tape.
“Some of these councils are saying they don’t have the money to build on spec and are hoping the State and Federal government are going to compensate them for that expenditure,” he said. “The second issue is just being able to replace infrastructure in a more long-term, cost effective way instead of simply rebuilding what was there before because that’s what the rules are telling them to do. We’re developing a range of policies which we hope will make sure that, Heaven forbid, the next time places get flooded, we are better prepared to deal with those issues, that we don’t continually repeat history, and we make sure communities are better warned about what’s going on.”
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