When Green/Left dam-hatred killed dozens of people and caused billions of dollars of flood damage

Brisbane has a history of occasional big floods so a few decades ago, the conservative-led Queensland State government built a big flood-control dam at Wivenhoe that should have ended the floods.  It was completed in 1985 and even before it was finished, in 1983, it did stop a potentially disastrous flood.

But in 2011 a flood as big as any hit Brisbane.  Why?  A court has just adjudicated that.  They found that the Wivenhoe dam was mismanaged -- as it undoubtedly was.  They blamed only the dam managers, however, without looking into the deeper background of what happened.

The court decision is something of a vindication for me personally.  I said from the beginning that Brisbane's big Wivenhoe flood control dam would have protected us perfectly well if it had been properly used.  The court has found that it was not properly used. The dam engineers were indeed at fault.  They were very arrogant in fact.  They ignored warnings from experienced people who could see what was coming.  They thought they knew it all. So they did not start discharging until it was too late.

What the report below does not tell you is that the lameduck Bligh Labor government of the day was also grossly at fault for two reasons:

1).Had there been a competent minister in charge of the dam he could have put a rocket up the engineers and told them to start discharging.  In fact he was a Leftist featherbrain who knew nothing and did nothing.  He was a waste of breath

2).  The Bligh government had also compromised the dam for Greenie reasons.  Because of recent water shortages and drought fears at the time, there was a need to build more dams. But a Green/Left government cannot do that.  So they decided instead to use the flood compartment of Wivenhoe for water storage, thus risking exactly what happened.

So the conservative Bjelke-Peterson government had built us a massive protective asset in the form of the Wivenhoe dam but even that could not save us from human negligence.  The dam would have protected us had either the engineers or the government behaved responsibly.  Sadly, neither did

It is perhaps fitting that a Labor government now has to pick up the pieces for a folly by a previous Labor government

As flood victims celebrated after years pursuing a complicated class-action suit against the government and its water management agencies, the financial implications of the NSW Supreme Court decision to uphold their claim were still being assessed.

Supreme Court judge Robert Beech-Jones found the operation of Wivenhoe Dam was negligent in the lead-up to the deluge, with dam operators failing to take into account rainfall forecasts in the days leading up the flood. This failure contributed to the downstream flooding of parts of Ipswich and Brisbane.

Deputy Opposition Leader Tim Mander demanded Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk apologise for the “incompetence” of the Bligh government — in which she was a minister — and explain how her cash-strapped administration would pay for the compensation.

“The Labor government was responsible for the management of Wivenhoe Dam during the 2011 floods and they blew it,” Mr ­Mander said. “Labor’s incompetence has put lives at risk and ruined thousands of homes and businesses.”

The only official response from the government yesterday was a short statement by Attorney-General Yvette D’Ath saying it acknowledged the court’s decision. “The government will closely examine the judgment before making any comment on a possible appeal,” Ms D’Ath said.

Pine Mountain Nursery manager John Craigie, whose investigations were crucial to the spotlight being shone on the role the operators of the dam played in contributing to the magnitude of the flood, described the decision as bittersweet. Mr Craigie — denied an appearance at the year-long royal commission-style inquiry into the floods run by now Queensland Chief Justice Catherine Holmes — forced a reopening of public hearings and rewriting of its findings that initiated the class action.

Mr Craigie said it was the discovery of the documents and collaboration with The Australian’s Hedley Thomas and retired chemical engineer Mick O’Brien that laid the groundwork for the class-action win. “Had I not done the research that opened the way for a reopening of the flood inquiry there probably would not have been sufficient evidence to initiate a class action,’’ he said.

The decision is a victory for the more than 6800 claimants who sued the Queensland government, and dam managers SEQwater and SunWater over the scale of the ­disaster. Justice Beech-Jones accepted engineers tasked with managing Wivenhoe and Somerset dams in the lead-up to and during a “biblical” deluge in January 2011 failed in their duty of care. He said they did not follow the dam operating manual that they themselves had helped write.

No cost decision has been made, with the case to return to court in February for a costs hearing.

The decision follows the findings by the Floods Commission of Inquiry that Wivenhoe Dam had been operated in breach of its operational manual.

The inquiry found that the dam operators had failed to use rainfall forecasts in making decisions about dam operating strategies.

The status of an estimated $1.5bn in insurance payments distributed to victims since the flood is also unclear, with Insurance Council of Australia spokesman Campbell Fuller saying insurers “will review today’s decision for its commercial implications”.

Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts said while SunWater and SEQwater did have legal liability insurance that could cover the compensation, it could be capped to a certain monetary value.

But Mr Potts said the state government was effectively self-insured and did not take out external insurance because it was such a large entity. He said it was likely the government would have to fund any compensation through its cash reserves, borrowing more money, creating a new levy, or increasing various taxes.

Mr Potts said defeated ­parties would consider whether there were grounds to appeal. “No doubt all of the parties will consider whether there’s been any error in the judgment or evidence which has been excluded that should have been included; they effectively have 28 days to appeal to the NSW Court of Appeal,” he said.

There were tears from some victims as the ruling was delivered, almost nine years after a disaster that devastated so many families.

Goodna retiree Frank Beaumont, 77, mulled over the years of distress he suffered after his home went under. “The mental stress has been horrendous,” Mr Beaumont said in Ipswich. “We’ve had so many trodden-down moments where the insurance didn’t pay, being kicked out of a rental home and then having to rebuild an absolutely devastated house.”

After Maurice Blackburn lawyers get paid, and their litigation funders, IMF Bentham and Innsworth, take their share of the damages payout, the rest will be shared between the class-action claimants. It is unlikely to be equal, with compensation to be based on the level of damage and financial loss.

The class action was filed by Maurice Blackburn in July 2014, with the trial starting in the Supreme Court of NSW in December 2017 and running for nearly 18 months. The litigation had to be filed interstate because, at the time, class actions could not be filed in Queensland.


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