Queensland flood inquiry to examine planning

AS Queensland continues to deal with the devastation of the flood crisis, Queensland Premier Anna Bligh yesterday launched a statewide independent Commission of Inquiry to forensically examine the flood disaster, with land use planning one of a number of aspects to be examined.

The floods in Queensland impacted approximately 70 per cent of the entire state and affected around 60 per cent of the entire population. At the time of writing, the death toll stands at 18, with grave fears held for a further fourteen people.

The Commission of Inquiry was approved by Cabinet yesterday and appointed by the Queensland Governor after a special Executive Council meeting. It will deliver an interim report in August 2011 and its final report by January 2012.

Ms Bligh said the Inquiry, which will have the powers of a Royal Commission, would take public submissions from across Queensland and make recommendations in its interim report for future wet seasons.

The Commission will be headed by Queensland Justice Cate Holmes with Deputy Commissioners Jim O'Sullivan, a former Queensland Police Commissioner and Phil Cummins, an international expert on dams.

The government has outlined a number of aspects for the Commission to inquire into, including government preparedness and emergency response.

The Inquiry has also been asked to examine "all aspects of land use planning through local and regional planning systems to minimise infrastructure and property impacts from floods."

In the aftermath of the floods, attention has focused on planning, with some criticising the adequacy of planning and others warning of the dangers of waterfront living. Brisbane City Council Lord Mayor Campbell Newman has flagged the idea of a planning review.

On Friday, the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) said that while natural events like flooding are impossible to predict, they do provide lessons for the future. PIA President Neil Savery said that consideration will need to be given to the extent of the influence of climate change on these floods and future similar events.

PIA Queensland President Greg Tupicoff said the current floods have not only identified areas that should have been better planned when they were built decades ago, but they have also identified locations that have survived because modern planning had it right.

Mr Tupicoff said that modern planning demonstrated its effectiveness in mitigating flood impacts, with many of the areas that suffered the most planned decades ago. He cited examples of new commercial and industrial developments in the low lying Oxley area that "fared well", demonstrating "how modern planning is working."

PIA is working to establish a volunteer register of planning professionals from across the country who will be available to support colleagues in Queensland.


The Commission's Terms of Reference will require the Commission to deliver:

  • an interim report by 1 August 2011 (on matters associated with flood preparedness to enable early recommendations to be implemented before next summer's wet season); and
  • its final report by 17 January 2012.

The Commission will be asked to inquire into and report on:

  • The preparation and planning by federal, State and local governments; emergency services and the community for the 2010/2011 floods in Queensland.
  • The performance of private insurers in meeting their claims responsibilities. All aspects of the response to the 2010/2011 flood events, particularly measures taken to inform the community and measures to protect life and private and public property, including:
    • - immediate management, response and recovery;
    • - resourcing, overall coordination and deployment of personnel and equipment;
    • - adequacy of equipment and communications systems; and
    • - the adequacy of the community's response.
  • The measures to manage the supply of essential services such as power, water and communications during the 2010/2011 flood events.
  • Adequacy of forecasts and early warning systems particularly as they related to the flooding events in Toowoomba, and the Lockyer and Brisbane Valleys.
  • Implementation of the systems operation plans for dams across the state and in particular the Wivenhoe and Somerset release strategy and an assessment of compliance with, and the suitability of the operational procedures relating to flood mitigation and dam safety.
  • All aspects of land use planning through local and regional planning systems to minimise infrastructure and property impacts from floods.
  • In undertaking its inquiries, the Commission is required to:
    • - Take into account the regional and geographic differences across affected communities.
    • - Seek public submissions and hold public hearings in affected communities.
  • The Commission of Inquiry is also required to make recommendations which it considers appropriate, feasible and cost effective to improve:
    • - The preparation and planning for future flood threats and risks, in particular the prevention of the loss of life.
    • - The emergency response in natural disaster events. Any legislative changes needed to better protect life and property in natural disaster events.

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