Could better planning have helped in Toowoomba?
In 20 years, 25 per cent of the population of Australia will live on a strip of land between Coffs Harbour in NSW and Hervey Bay in central Queensland.
That’s a prediction made by many in both state and local government - including Queensland Premier Anna Bligh a couple of years ago.
The massive growth projections have both excited and worried local and state planners.
Excited? More people, more jobs, more industry, more income, more wealth and more revenue to prop up an already bloated local government system.
One leading mayor eagerly told a business breakfast club his council was a ‘go ahead organisation, who could bend the rules’ when it came to development.
Such was his eagerness to see his city grow - and grow some more.
Not many months after this comment, his city flooded - badly.
No one died as a direct result, but one elderly lady committed suicide in the days that followed, such was the devastation the downpour left.
The scenes from Toowoomba have reminded so many in that country town how lucky they were - because the causes are exactly the same.
A develop at all cost attitude, eagerly ceding to the developers’ wishes, with little real regard for what happens if disaster strikes.
In Coffs Harbour disaster did strike - in a similar and dangerously quick manner to Toowoomba - in 2009.
I was there in Coffs the day it flooded as the acting editor of the local paper, I saw it and the scenes from Queensland yesterday brought it all back.
Within an hour the city of Coffs Harbour’s CBD was under water. The Pacific Highway, clubs, shops, businesses, pubs - people’s homes.
Residents up to their necks in water - having lost everything.
The water had nowhere to go. Old drains too small, done on the cheap by a pro-development council that had never stopped to think of the consequences years later.
The water flow in Toowoomba yesterday was fierce, and thankfully we were spared that danger, but danger there was and locals were frightened.
Following the shock comes the mourning - and we must all mourn for those who have sadly lost their lives in this latest disaster - then the questions and the recriminations.
Questions as to why the bridge spans were not built to properly allow water flow out to the creeks to the sea.
Land where rainfall would usually drain away concreted over - all in the name of ‘develop at all costs’. Why?
A city council that allowed the landscape to be changed beyond recognition, areas hard surfaced, with water channelled down a concrete drain too small to cope. Why?
And why were retention basins planned but forgotten about?
These questions and many more will be asked in coming days and weeks - because while the rain maybe part of the climate change process we are going through - there is concrete evidence to suggest these sorts of flood disasters can be averted in the future.
Development has to be linked to environmental planning.
If it isn’t, sadly we could see more tragedy in the future.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…