We did the best we could do: Mayor

Mayor Peter Maguire (right) says the Central Highlands Regional Council will take on board community input heard at Monday night’s Flood Information Session.
Mayor Peter Maguire (right) says the Central Highlands Regional Council will take on board community input heard at Monday night’s Flood Information Session. Photo Tara Miko

NO ONE can predict the extent of a major flood event.

It doesn’t matter how many axe marks scar trees from decades ago, or the number of modern rain gauge stations the council puts in.

The fact is, hydrology is not a perfect science, and the best the Central Highlands Regional Council could do in December and January as Emerald came closer to enduring their second major flood in two years was to relay the information as quickly and as accurately as possible.

And that is what CHRC Mayor Peter Maguire said he did.

“Look, we did the best we could with the information and data we had from the gauging stations upstream from the dam, and we relayed that information once we got it,” Cr Maguire said.

“People can be critical of the text messages and what (the council) can send out, but we were limited to 160 characters in each SMS.

“The figures change, I know that, and I was involved in the discussions with the hydrologists before the messages were sent out.”

About a month before the flood event, Cr Maguire assured Emerald residents he was the “point of truth” for the floods, and vowed he would keep people as informed as possible when the town faced inundation again.

At Monday’s Flood Information Session at McIndoe Park, Cr Maguire and representatives from the Local Disaster Management Group, which he chairs, and SunWater opened the floor to flood victims to ask questions about the disaster, and raise concerns they had regarding the town’s future.

“I thought there might have been more people there,” Cr Maguire said.

“I think some people didn’t get a chance to have their say or ask their questions, but what we (on the panel) were asked and told, we’ve taken on board and we’ll look into it.”

The main criticisms aired at the session dealt with the council’s reluctance to use local information, but instead rely on gauging stations and Bureau of Meteorology data.

“I know people were ringing in and telling me water levels and what-not, but there was no point telling me because I’m not a hydrologist,” Cr Maguire said.

“You just can’t work on word of mouth.”

Cr Maguire was sympathetic to the town, and said he knew how difficult it was for people to rebuild their lives once again.

“People need to be aware we are on a floodplain and these events have been happening for years,” he said.

“We all need to be prepared as best we can.

“The worst part is now.

“The event – we can handle the event – but three or four months down the track are when the problems start happening.

“We need to look after our friends and neighbours because people will start having problems and we need to help them out.

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