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Queensland government considers new flood defences

The Queensland government will consider building new flood defences, state premier Anna Bligh said as floods continued in the southern state of Victoria.

Levees helped to reduce flood damage to some extent in Goondiwindi and St George, and the government will seek “expert advice” on whether to build more, said Bligh.

Experts will consider “are there any things beyond that that we could do such as levees or dams or any other mitigation strategies that are cost effective, make sense and will do a better job”, she said.

“Maybe we’re saying if you live in that area you have to have a house on stilts for example.”

Anna Bligh , Queensland premier

Bligh also said the government will look at whether destroyed homes should be rebuilt on floodplains, or moved elsewhere. “Maybe it’s not about rezoning, maybe we’re saying if you live in that area you have to have a house on stilts for example,” she said.

“We’ve got some real questions before we just rush in and rebuild exactly what was there in exactly the same place.”

Australia’s federal government also said this week that it is undertaking a AUD$5M (£3.1bn) Fitzroy River Floodplain and Road Planning Study to look at options for flood-proofing the Bruce Highway, a major coastal motorway that commences in Brisbane.

Bligh said there was a small silver lining in the fact that the construction industry will have a great deal of work to do, after suffering from the global financial downturn. “There’s about to be, I think, more work that our industry can keep up with.” Qualified tradespeople can sign up to help with rebuilding work at http://operationbounceback.org.au/

Floods reach Victoria

The south-eastern state of Victoria was the latest area of Australia to be flooded, with 51 towns affected across north-central Victoria.

Floods left 1,000 households in Victoria’s north-west without power, and thousands more homes face cuts as substations and low-lying power lines are submerged.

“Queensland roads have received more damage than any other piece of State Government infrastructure.”

Craig Wallace , main roads minister

Energy supplier Powercor has been building earthen barriers around the substation in Kerang, in a floodplain expected to be inundated by 2m of water. Many residents are without electricity, water, sewer or telephone connections.

In Queensland state, a huge clean-up is beginning as floodwaters recede in Brisbane. Almost 60,000 homes are still without power across Queensland.

Transport minister Rachel Nolan said the Western rail line to Toowoomba and beyond has suffered substantial damage, with at least one bridge partially washed away and landslips leaving in some areas washing away the ground underpinning railway tracks.

Rail services have resumed on the Ipswich line, where 40km of track and two stations were particularly affected by flooding. 20km of fencing also had to be repaired.

Resuming services

Main roads minister Craig Wallace said 70% of roads that were flooded have now reopened, although many are in a state of disrepair. “Queensland roads have received more damage than any other piece of State Government infrastructure during the flooding,” he said.

The Port of Brisbane is also back in business for shipping, after crews surveyed the channel and cleared debris. Surveyors found sunken yachts, uprooted trees, huge truck tyres and large domestic freezers in the area. Dredging will commence in the coming weeks once silt settles, to properly clear the channel. Passenger berths are still closed.

The cost of the disaster is expected to be in the billions after the torrent of water washed away rail tracks, flooded mines and closed factories.

The Queensland state government has also launched a £9.4M inquiry into the floods to assess, among other things, whether mistakes were made and whether warning systems operated well.

Airport Link work site avoids flood damage

The AUD$4.1bn (£2.6bn) Brisbane Airport Link project was spared by the floodwaters this week as water levels were lower than initially feared.

Contractor Leighton is planning a gradual return to site after operations were temporarily shut down on the motorway tunnel project in anticipation of the floods.

Staff removed or protected plant and equipment where possible, but in the event the site was not inundated. “There is no flood damage,” said a spokesman. “As it’s safe to do so we will be gradually returning.”

A 4.5m high berm already existed, but Leighton constructed an emergency 6m high levee behind it to protect the tunnel works further.

Concern centred around the southern end of the Airport Link, which runs close to the Brisbane River and Breakfast Creek. A 4.5m high berm already existed at that location, but Leighton constructed an emergency 6m high levee behind it to protect the tunnel works further. Leighton chief executive officer David Stewart said the project team also removed equipment from the tunnel at that part of the site.

However, flood levels were lower than feared and the waters did not even overtop the smaller berm.

But Leighton said future heavy rain could potentially cause Kedron Brook – a small waterway running perpendicular to the tunnel entrance at Kedron, further north – to experience renewed flooding.

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