How to learn nothing from the 2010 flooding in Brisbane

Brisbane floods, an example of the affects of ...
Brisbane floods, a claimed example of the affects of “climate change” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From Griffith University

Flood research shows human habits die hard

Climate Change experts examine rebuilding

New research has come up with ways to quickly assess flood damage to houses while also showing most people didn’t intend to make changes to reduce their vulnerability after the 2010-11 floods in Australia.

Two separate reports from the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility released today show how lessons learned from households affected by the 2010-11 Australian floods can minimise damage under current and future climates.

The report Analysis of Damage to Buildings Following the 2010 Eastern Australia Floods evaluated the role of development controls and analysed house damage to inform flood risk estimation. Based on damage to buildings in Brisbane, Ipswich and Grantham, the project developed a model to rapidly assess impacts following a flood, such as estimating building losses and the likely need to relocate people.

Lead author Dr Matthew Mason said “There are new amendments for flood planning coming into force this year within the Building Code of Australia but some of the issues our research identified are excluded.” The new code will not require rebuilt homes to be more resilient to flood and does not address homes built in areas prone to storm surge or flash flooding.

The second report, Impact of the 2010 floods and the factors that inhibit and enable household adaptation strategies is based on surveys and interviews with people directly affected by floods in Brisbane and Emerald in Queensland, and Donald in Victoria.

Lead author Dr Deanne Bird said “There was a lot of frustration over communication.

“After the floods receded, people needed to know what to do, where to get information, how to implement changes to reduce vulnerability, and how to deal with insurance companies.”

Their study shows many residents made general home improvements such as installing their ‘dream’ kitchen rather than concentrating on making their home more resilient to flooding, for example by raising cupboards and air-conditioning units or changing floor coverings.

English: Wharves at Brisbane under water from ...
More “climate change” from the past. Wharves at Brisbane under water from the 1893 floods Warehouses under water on Brisbane wharves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While most respondents indicated that they were not likely to make any changes to reduce their vulnerability to flood, 55 percent stated that they were likely to, or already had, changed their insurance policy.

Many residents felt they had no options to make changes due to the structural design of their home. In other instances, insurers would only pay to replace like with like.

According to Dr Bird “We saw communities getting on with their lives and largely driving their recovery with stoic endurance. This does not necessarily translate to adaptation to future events but it does reflect strong resilience in the community.”


NCCARF will publish a wide range of peer reviewed reports on Climate Adaptation in Australia leading up to the 2013 National Adaptation Conference, Sydney, 25-27 June.

Full reports available from

Mason, M, Phillips, E, Okada, T, O’Brien, J, 2013 Analysis of Damage to Buildings Following the 2010 Eastern Australia Floods. National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast pp.102.

Bird, D, King, D, Haynes, K, Box, P, Okada, T, Nairn, K 2013 Impact of the 2010 floods and the factors that inhibit and enable household adaptation strategies National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast. pp.183.

Media enquiries and interviews with Dr Matthew Mason or Dr Deanne Bird: Brooke Billett, NCCARF Communication Officer: WK: 07 5552 7546 MOB: 0401 259 115

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February 14, 2013 12:07 pm

Many people are in denial mode of the fact that they have built a house on a natural flood plain. Go to Google and look at Bundaberg Queensland that was recently flooded for example with essentially the whole town situated on a typical deltaic flood plain with many structures positioned very close to the river bank. Clearly flood protection should be a number one priority and insurance companies despite locals protests, do have a point about the huge risk and premiums to match.

Fred from Canuckistan
February 14, 2013 12:12 pm

Use the Wivenhoe system like it was designed for instead of a drought relief system and this problem doesn’t exist flooding.

February 14, 2013 12:19 pm

The main thing about this story is that Tim Flannery “Australian of The year” predicted eternal drought in Queensland due to Global warming

February 14, 2013 12:20 pm

This story sorry

February 14, 2013 12:23 pm

OT but Antarctic ice extent is way above normal anomaly now and ALSO Arctic is in Normal ice extent territory

February 14, 2013 12:44 pm

Really, there spending good money to tell people not to build in the flood plain.

Fred Allen
February 14, 2013 12:44 pm

Heard an interesting comment the other day. Laidley, a town not far from Brisbane, on advice from government authorities as a result of the 2010-11 floods, bulldozed and graded drainage ditches and creek banks to improve flood mitigation. After this last flood, the town has been left under an enormous load of mud due to the fact that little vegetation remained to hold the dirt together.

Lewis P Buckingham
February 14, 2013 12:53 pm

There has certainly been positive decisions about the Hawkesbury flood plain in NSW.
New buildings have to have bedrooms and kitchens on the top floor, downstairs power points are at a high level.
A ‘fuse’ was put into the local dam to prevent collapse and extra roads put in to help evacuation of the plain.This needs to be urgently upgraded and the dam height raised to prevent further flooding, rather than get people out when flooding inevitably happens.

Stephen Brown
February 14, 2013 12:54 pm

My parents lived for many years on the banks of the Kafue River in Zambia, near Luanshya. When the rainy season arrived the river would normally rise 12-15 feet. The tops of the banks were safe. One year, I forget which, I think that it was in the early eighties, before the rains began my parents moved out of their house and took everything with them, they lived in a barn almost a mile from the river for nearly a year. Why did they move out? Because they’d seen the weaver birds building their nests high in the trees rather than in the reeds along the river.
The birds are known for their very accurate prediction of the expected height of the water by the height above the river they build their nests. The year the birds built in the trees rather than the reeds the river rose to enormous levels. the house which my parents had vacated was partially demolished by the flood. They re-built the house a mile away from the river where it was safe.
Nature’s warning was observed and heeded.

February 14, 2013 1:22 pm

I was amazed with the Politicking and the Alarmism in the buildup to the Brisbane flood of 2011. Both sides were arguing over whether water should be taken from Wivenhoe dam, and how much. A few voices of reason (including mine) were pointing to the La Nina, and matching it with weather in the past, and talking of flood risk. They were ignored, with most preferring to listen to the prognostications of Tim Flannery. Fools.
I have an Earthmoving Business. We specialise in small, detail work. There is a lot of work going on in Brisbane to raise houses above expected future flood levels. Much of this has been driven by insurance, though much is also privately funded. We did well out of the Flood. We are still building, rebuilding, and renovating concrete slab ground level dwellings on the flood plain though, and I expect it will happen again.
Interestingly Alarmists are now saying the Flood was Climate Change driven, and the Cognitive Dissonance is deafening when you point out that the same people said we wouldn’t ever flood again, back in <2010. They just CANNOT look back and see how much less flooding there has been since 1900. 1840 – 1900 saw Brisbane being flooded worse, almost routinely! The data is freely available, and some of the excuses they bandy about are almost hysterically stupid. But that's what we expect from Religious Fanatics, is it not?

February 14, 2013 1:37 pm

Awww… just do what we do in the U.S. of A. Let the government bail out the homeowners who built in floodplains so they can rebuild in the floodplain… again… and again… and again… and again…
Works for beach houses, too.
(Dang! This article has given me an earworm. From My Fair Lady; “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain.” Apologies to all.)

February 14, 2013 1:55 pm

“National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility” – groan …
There is no evidence of “change”. The climate here is just doing what it has always done and will continue to do in the future.
It was unwise to build towns near the estuary of rivers that have catchments of 500,000 km2.
For decades my work has involved promoting resilience to cyclone and flood. These new arrivals trying to teach grandad to suck eggs are profoundly irritating, but at least this time they have come up with observations that are illuminating.
The problem is, there are forces pulling in opposite directions:
Developers trying to outlaw building elevated dwellings on land that is at <= 3.9m AHD.
Public perception that elevated buildings are "old fashioned".
Preference for electrical services being installed bottom-up instead of top-down etc etc
Queensland state law still enshrines sea level rise of 0.8m and more extreme weather events, based on spin-doctor modelling rather than actual observations. Given the influence of the usual suspects in this regard, I do not expect the changes to the Building Code will be helpful.
[Note to Dr Matthew Mason: the title "Building Code of Australia" should be "National Construction Code". Ok. You are only 2 years out of date – better than most academics achieve.]

February 14, 2013 2:04 pm

Stephen Brown says:
February 14, 2013 at 12:54 pm
The birds are known for their very accurate prediction of the expected height of the water by the height above the river they build their nests. The year the birds built in the trees rather than the reeds the river rose to enormous levels.
It is often said that animals have a sixth sense about coming natural events whereas many humans with supposedly increased intelligence still have a belief in astrology, tea leave readings, divining rods etc and a believe in supernatural and mystical forces and that we can “control” and need to “tackle” climate change.
Whenever I read that phrase “tackling climate change” as though its some type of football
manoeuvre I end up biting my tongue. What an irritating stupid phrase it is.

February 14, 2013 2:29 pm

There’s no cure for ‘stupid.’

February 14, 2013 2:31 pm

Maybe some of the money spent on global warming adaptation studies should go to designing flood resistant houses and office buildings. I.e., ones that can stand a water level of a foot or two.

February 14, 2013 2:32 pm

Why are traditional houses in Queensland built on stilts? Now known as “Queenslander” homes. And this was early in the last century. Other helpful hints:- Do not camp in a dry creek bed or under a eucalypt.

February 14, 2013 3:08 pm

And so much of the damage that occurred was preventable had the local city officials followed the recommendations of some of the local engineers by not opening flood-prone land to development. Our politicians seem to be unable to stand up to the pressures placed on them by money interests, regardless of the outcome. We need to hold the politician’s responsible for their decisions that continue to create, not solve problems.

February 14, 2013 3:19 pm

The devastating impact of Hurricane Hazel in 1954 was a mobilizing force in bringing a regional approach to flood control and water management in Ontario.

Ian L. McQueen
February 14, 2013 3:37 pm

Keeping in the Australia mood, go to and look for climate-related articles. At the moment I am having fun posting comments to “State of the Union: climate change action is a domestic concern”. If you sign in you can add comments, and they are in dire need of the voice of common sense.
The Conversation is a website operated by Melbourne Uni. Unfortunately, it is AGW all the way, which bothers me because I have a post-grad degree from that university and I am saddened by the gullibility shown in articles and postings.

February 14, 2013 3:45 pm

It’s human nature, innit?
Their study shows many residents made general home improvements such as installing their ‘dream’ kitchen rather than concentrating on making their home more resilient to flooding, for example by raising cupboards and air-conditioning units or changing floor coverings.
While most respondents indicated that they were not likely to make any changes to reduce their vulnerability to flood, 55 percent stated that they were likely to, or already had, changed their insurance policy.

Why should people be bothered about little things like “reducing their vulnerability to floods” when they won’t foot the bill:
“Hey, I can have a new ‘dream’ kitchen every five years when it floods, and the insurance company will pay for it. What’s not to like?”

February 14, 2013 4:46 pm

I was born in Brisbane in 1954 and lived most of my life there and the Sunshine Coast – 100 km north.
I helped friends during the 1974 flood and witnessed the decision to construct Wivenhoe dam as primarily a flood control dam.
I witnessed almost a decade of climate hysteria including claims such as predicting permanent drought as the norm and that what little rain that fell would not fill the dams anyway.
During this time Wivenhoe dam – a large area shallow flood control dam fell to 15% capacity – they neglected that Somerset the principal upstream water storage dam maintained more than 50% capacity.
Alarmed by the climate scientists and low levels of Wivenhoe dam, politicians made several stupid decisions.
1. Desalination plant – now not needed for many years – perhaps never.
2. When the drought broke late 2009 and Wivenhoe filled to near 50 – 60 % capacity politicians must have felt relieved.
3. When the 2010/2011 wet season began I believe politicians chose to allow the precious water in Wivenhoe to accumulate – forgetting its flood prevention purpose.
4. When it became obvious that the primarily earth embankment Wivenhoe was in danger of overtopping water was released during the peak rain event thus negating any flood mitigation value.
5. The federal government stopped a dam on the Mary river on environmental grounds – a stupid decision in my opinion as there must have been ways around environmental concerns. This dam could also have acted as flood control of the Mary river. The city of Gympie has flooded so often in the last 5 years it is a wonder it ever dries out – perhaps the prohibited dam could have mitigated this.
6. We in south east Queensland have had 3 years of above average rainfall. The Australian BOM has twice gotten their predictions completely wrong for northern Australia including this year. At least this year their advice about Oswald was timely and obvious – their advice prior to the 2011 flood was muted at best.
I blame alarmists for the damages of the recent flood events – Wivenhoe could and should have been an effective flood mitigation dam – it was simply too full to fulfil this purpose when the rain really began to fall and this was probably due to alarm from the 15% level – no politician was going to order the release of precious water on the chance the drought would return which they have been brainwashed into accepting as our future.

February 14, 2013 4:51 pm

Has everybody forgotten 1974 or 1893 ?
Both of these floods were bigger than 2011.
After 1974 you’d have thought authorities would have tried to flood proof the affected areas – instead many single unit dwellings were replaced with 6 units.
This commonly resulted in at least 2 groundfloor dwellings flooded where previously there was one.

Graham G
February 14, 2013 5:10 pm

I grew up in the coastal cyclone zone of North Queensland,and my Grandparents always said stay near the sea because the rain will get away quickly for you to recover from the event. Yes , stilt houses are a necessity. Properly built and maintained by the owner they will stand the severest cyclones and its storm surge, as mine has proved with my 70 years exposure. It was built on a reclaimed salt pan quite close to the sea by the Queensland Housing Commission, and in those days the planners knew how to built homes with the timber available to withstand the cyclones and floods. Cyclonic storm surge is not as damaging as deep fast flowing water that cannot get to the sea . JCU has done a great job of designing new standards for current building materials. I wish the World’s Universities would be more realistic about teaching students the climate variances and use history as a better guide than computer models for this contentious issue of climate.

Colin Porter
February 14, 2013 5:11 pm

These people are so keen on models and on the predictive power of their climate scientists. Here is a possible solution utilising a simple model and the skills of climate scientists to minimise Brisbane’s flooding, already hinted at by Timiboy at 1.22 above.
Wyvenhoe dam was constituted as a water storage dam with a capacity of 1.14 million ML and with a flood mitigation storage of a further 1.4 million ML, enshrined in statute and invariant, I believe. Even so, it has been suggested that the rules were ignored in order to take advantage of the high precipitation rates to collect extra valuable storage water, the consequence of which were that the dam was in danger of overtopping and so water was released into the swollen system at the worst possible time, making a difficult situation far worse with a significant loss of life.
Surely, it seems obvious that the rules should be changed to recognise El Nino and La nina conditions. In El Nino conditions, the full capacity of the dam could be safely used for storage purposes. At the first onset of La Nina conditions, and on the advice of the BOM, the storage capacity could be reduced to the design capacity, or in anticipated circumstances of very heavy precipitation, the Wyvenhoe and even the Somerset dam could safely be nearly emptied. During the 2010 flood, it took only a few days to completely use up the flood capacity of the dam, catching the dam management unawares over the critical weekend. Therefore, emptying it in deep La Nina conditions should not carry any water shortage risks for the future.
The only problem to this scenario is that the BOM would have to start taking some responsibility for the advice it gives and will have to make objective judgements instead of the political ones that they currently make.

Rick Bradford
February 14, 2013 6:30 pm

I don’t doubt that you could remove NCCARF totally and instantly from the landscape without affecting the lives of any Australians* in any way, except they’d all be better off with the $40 million of funding that this self-interested NGO hoovers up.
* Apart from all the directors, and the ‘knowledge communicators’ and ‘stakeholder engagement’ staff of this make-work organisation.

Olaf Koenders
February 14, 2013 6:44 pm

This is exactly the same as those building (and constantly rebuilding) in tornado alley. They KNOW there will be more to come, but after their homes are wiped off the map, they build another just like it.
Either get some cargo containers and bury them to make a house in, or shovel up a whole heap of dirt and make a house in there.
Look at Coober Pedy. They live underground simply due to the heat, but I dare say they’ll have virtually no problems during a tornado.
When it comes to living on a floodplain, either get outta there or build something that’s not vulnerable. Those that fail to heed the past and continue to build traditional homes above ground in tornado areas, or at ground level on flood plains deserve what they get.
In the face of state and local building regulations made by the uneducated and power-hungry, the demise of homes in such areas constructed to satisfy such regulations should place the responsibility squarely on the regulators, period.

February 14, 2013 7:36 pm

New Zealand also has governments of various hues which (when they choose) subscribe to the sea level/global warming scenario. Much of the centre of Christchurch was destroyed by earthquakes, and a re-build is underway. Various new taxes are imposed for carbon-related reasons, but the re-build goes ahead in EXACTLY the same location despite the fact that the CBD of Christchurch is only 6m above sea level, and much of the city is even lower! There is NEVER any reference to the spectres of sea level rise and tsunamis. What does this tell us about government policies? It’s just a tax scam folks! If they don’t get their money out of you this way, they WILL think of another …

February 14, 2013 8:10 pm

Rosco and others,
I will have to disagree.
1. Prior to the 7th Jan 2011 Wivenhoe dam was at full supply level with full flood migitation capacity intact.
2. As soon as levels rose on the 7th, water was released and continued to be released till after the 19 th of January.
3. SEQ water say inflows into Wivenhoe were comparable with what happened in 1893. Without Wivenhoe dam Brisbane’s 2011 flood would have been 2m higher.
4. Some of the flood Brisbane experienced on the 12th & 13th was due to the unrelated Bremer catchment which experienced extreme rain on the 10th of Jan (Grantham Flood). Wivenhoe will not protect Brisbane from the Bremer.
5. The proposed dam on the Mary may have been shelved due to the presence of some rare turtle, but this was really a get out of jail card from the Federal Govt to the State Govt. The Beatie / Bligh Govt were deeply unpopular with residents of the Mary Valley and elsewhere over this proposed dam.
6. I wouldn’t pin any hopes on predicting floods with ENSO, the climate is just too variable in OZ. Take this ENSO neutral summer for instance.
7. If what you say is correct, at the height of the drought Wivenhoe had 175 GL , Somerset would have only added another 190 GL.
Who knows how long the drought could have gone on for, or for that matter the next one. At least SE Queensland now has some security of the water grid, recycled water pipeline and the desalination plant. These will be needed if people continue to shift into the region and want more of the dam storages for flood mitigation.

Reply to  dlb
February 14, 2013 9:20 pm

All correct, dlb from a certain (Alarmist) perspective. ALL the signs were there for 2011 to be wet. We were already having a lot of rain. My Business depends on the weather, so if you can’t remember, I have plenty of records for you – it was a terrible time, for MONTHS leading up to the flood. Patterns were wet weather patterns, and any Objective viewer KNEW it was going to rain – maybe not flood – but many were aware of the risks and were howled down. Remember, Flannery said…
You are correct regarding the Bremer River.
The drought had already finished, so “who knows?” Everyone knew – it was OVER.
But what gets my back up? Your banal regurgitation of Labor Party mantra, claiming that security of water due to grid, recycled pipeline and (God save us) desal are all benefits. Biggest waste of a Billion dollars plus anyone ever dreamt up, and built because Tim Flannery said we would never get rain again.

February 14, 2013 10:14 pm

@Ian L McClean, “it is a domestic concern” That left me absolutely stunned and then I broke out in hysterical laughter please tell your countrymen to keep it that way the rest of the world has bigger problems, and thanks for the laugh I am sure you had one as well

High Treason
February 14, 2013 11:10 pm

Alas, our politicians have selectively bred for stupidity. Queensland gets floods. Build in a flood prone region and sooner or later, you will cop a flood. Mind you, our Labor government needs idiots to be able to gain power. Our Prime Minister on BOTH flood events promised an insulting 1 million dollars for flood relief. Pathetic. Meanwhile, she gives billions in overseas aid and to illegal immigrants(to buy their votes.) Instead of minding her Ps and Qs, our PM should learn how to watch her Bs and Ms.

February 15, 2013 2:16 am

We see it again and again in Australia … governments allowing flood prone areas to be developed. Wherever you go in Australia, its the same… e.g. from Darwin to Katherine…. Alice Springs to Brisbane… it’s the ultimate in planning stupidity!

Mike Bromley the Canucklehead in Cowburg
February 15, 2013 6:56 am

Stephen Brown says:
February 14, 2013 at 12:54 pm
The birds are known for their very accurate prediction of the expected height of the water by the height above the river they build their nests.
Years ago I worked in south Sudan, where the savannah is so flat that it has less than a meter of relief over 40 kilometers. When the Monsoon comes in the summer months, the area is inundated a foot deep for as far as the eye can see. The Dinka locals reminded us that the white egret was the harbinger of this period, and they accumulate around slightly lower areas in anticipation of the first rain. This included some of the pits we had dug to harvest fill for roadbuilding. When I mentioned this to my client back in Calgary, they snorted contemptuously that rainy season was still a month away, and not to worry. I snorted back, the next day when all the pits were full of water, and the day after when every land-dwelling creature like snakes and bugs and so on had found refuge on the only spot of dry land for miles, the drilling location. Very amusing to look out the window at ten different species of praying mantis staring in, while the ground seethed with snakes at night. And the Zarzu (the weaverbirds) no longer roosted on the plain at night, instead swirling around in impossible synchronized flying displays, literally sucking up every bug that could still fly overhead.
…or like the Inuit elders who snort at weepy polar-bear huggers that just don’t get it…
…or the average dolt who thinks “floodplain” means “golf course” or the like…

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