Federal flood warning network

Old scars: The June 2021 storm and flood event ripped through the Traralgon community. File photograph



THE federal government will invest $236 million over ten years to establish a national, reliable flood warning network.

The funding will be spent on purchasing and upgrading high-priority flood gauges that are currently owned by local, state and territory governments in flood-prone areas.

Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek said severe weather events, including floods, are becoming more extreme and more frequent.

“When these events occur, people need access to the best available information, in real time,” Ms Plibersek said.

“Reliable flood warning will help Australians prepare for moments of extreme weather. It will keep people safer as they happen. And being better prepared will, when the water recedes, help reduce the financial impact of flooding on families and businesses.”

The devastating Traralgon floods of the past two years would still be fresh in the minds of many locals.

On Thursday, June 10, 2021, at around 10 am, officials issued the evacuation order for Traralgon residents, but by then, a number of homes along Traralgon Creek had already been overwhelmed by water as the warning came far too late.

Following Emergency Management Victoria labelling the floods in Traralgon as a warning systems failure, this federal funding allocated to improve warning systems has been welcomed by the Latrobe City Council.

Council said the announcement by Ms Plibersek and Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt follows a successful visit held with Mr Watt and Senator Ciccone to learn more about the effects of the 2021 flood and storm event and ongoing recovery works in August 2022.

Several local effected businesses, including Traralgon Centre Plaza management, were involved in the discussion sharing the impacts experienced.

The Council presented Mr Watt and Mr Ciccone with opportunities to support infrastructure projects that would mitigate the risks associated with future flooding events.

Opportunities still exist to support these efforts, including Stage Two of the Flood Recovery and Resilience Project.

Mayor of Latrobe City, Councillor Kellie O’Callaghan, was pleased to see some progress following discussions held with Mr Watt.

“The development of a reliable flood warning network was discussed with Minister Watt during his visit last year, so it is heartening to hear that the federal government will be making such a commitment over the next decade,” she said.

“Reliable access to flood forecasts and warnings are critical to help our communities prepare and respond to flooding events. We look forward to hearing more about the network and how it will improve emergency management in Latrobe City for the future.”

The Mayor also said that the council would continue to seek assistance from all levels of government for the Flood Recovery and Resilience project as they continue to manage the effects of the 2021 flood and storm event.

Mr Watt said that early warnings were critical to keep people safe and limit flood events’ physical impacts and costs.

“We’ve seen communities hit by terrible disasters in recent years, and this investment will mean people are given time to protect themselves, their property and their land,” he said.

“The Albanese Government have heard the calls for a national solution and that is what we are delivering.”

In a press release regarding the Inquiry into the 2022 Flood Event in Victoria, The Nationals member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath, spoke of the failure of the warning system in the Gippsland experience.

“In Traralgon, the 2021 floods were devastating for the Gippsland community, due in part to the failure of local warning systems that left hundreds of residents stranded when evacuation orders were issued far too late while flood waters were already lapping at doorsteps,” she said.

“Thousands of residents across the region were left without power, some for weeks, and the clean-up took months.”

Ms Bath said a report released by Emergency Management Victoria in the aftermath of the Traralgon floods found warning systems had failed flood victims, with one-third of residents reporting they did not receive any warning.

“This is clear evidence that some of those on the ground weren’t watching the monitoring network of properly transferring the information to residents,” she added.

For more information about the Flood Recovery and Resilience project and Council’s advocacy efforts, please visit latrobe.vic.gov.au/advocacy

For information on the Inquiry into the 2022 Flood Event in Victoria, head to new.parliament.vic.gov.au/floodinquiry