After several years of investigation, culminating in the draft Business Case Report – Emerald Flood Protection Scheme being brought before council for consideration, the mayor, Cr Kerry Hayes, pronounced the levee debate ‘finally put to rest’.
‘The answer to the question as to whether Emerald is going to have levees as flood protection is no, it’s not,’ the mayor said.
‘As Chair of the flood recovery group, I’ve toiled side by side with people in two major flood clean-ups and I know how awful it is; I know that people want us to do something; but I also know they don’t want us to do something foolish, that’s why we invested in the business case study.
‘The study took four months longer to complete than expected and is extremely comprehensive. At the end of the day, in the most simplified terms, the cost outweighs the benefit, from every angle you look at it.
‘Essentially, the cost of building, operating and maintaining levees exceeds the potential direct benefit of reduced flood damage, which is the impact on agricultural land and the general effect on people. Moreover, the indirect benefits, such as reduced insurance premiums and improved property values, while identified as marginal, are unproven.
‘We’ve got the business case; we said we’d be guided by it; and the result is that levees are not good business for this community – it’s a cost that our community cannot afford.
‘The councillors have sat around a table and determined what’s important to us for our community. Clearly, public safety came out on top—way above property protection—and we can assure the safety of our community without a levee system.
‘The announcement today won’t be the end; in fact it’s just the beginning. The levee option is finished, however a number of other flood mitigation projects, activities and advocacy will continue in the months ahead,’ the mayor explained.
‘In the last seven years the council has spent approximately $7.3 million on flood mitigation projects, such as the railway culverts, the New Street evacuation route and the Nogoa River excavation and this is a solid foundation for our three future focus areas: the bridge and rail raising, evacuation planning, and education.
‘Discussions with the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads regarding raising the Vince Lester Bridge to make a priority evacuation route along with removing the old timber bridge; and with Queensland Rail concerning the rail bridge are well advanced and will provide significant mitigation.
‘Evacuation planning will include more state-of-the-art riverine and rainfall early warning systems and a comprehensive evacuation plan for Emerald.
‘And, there’ll be an ongoing concentrated effort to ensure people are well-informed about flood safety and are well-prepared in advance of any future event.
‘As a council we will continue to lobby the Insurance Council of Australia on behalf of the community, however we do have substantive flood height data available to home owners that should satisfy the risk assessment criteria of insurance companies and may result in a reduction of some premiums.
‘This decision not to proceed with levees has been based on a lot of information—much of it technical—and we understand there will be a mix of reactions and many questions.
‘My commitment during this week is to personally visit as many people as possible that have been directly affected by the levee deliberations, but I encourage everyone interested to visit the myfloodinfo.com.au website where an assortment of information will be available to explain many aspects of the business case findings. There’s also a dedicated email contact at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone council on 1300 242 686.’