The recent afternoon gathering for flood-affected residents in the tin-and-timber streets* near the river drew a good crowd on Sunday 14 August at St Francis’ Hall. Residents in the Kurilpa community were invited to share knowledge and concerns arising from the 2022 floods, and make suggestions for actions needed.

Resilient Kurilpa hosted the event. The group formed in 2022 and is a network of local community organisations including the West End Traders’ Association, West End Community Association, Kurilpa Futures, The Westender, West End Community House (Community Plus facility) and Zero-Net Kurilpa. These organisations are on a mission to boost resilience planning for, and in, our neighbourhood.

Local community leader Mary Maher saw the workshop driving a strong sense of community connection:

“Key to resilience is having a sense of community, shared knowledge and information. It was useful having experts at the forum to provide us with needed technical background. I’m keen to see where the discussion goes next.”

In addition to this strengthening of community connection, another clear finding for Resilient Kurilpa was a sense of urgency about greater coordinated action by government, community organisations and support for education of residents in the face of future flooding.

Two practical experts grounded us back into the flood experience and set the scene for the session. Bruce McNaughton, retired civil engineer with 44 years’ experience in hydrology and engineering, provided us with a sobering view of the river levels, the modelling of inundation and the limitations of weather forecasting the emergency warning systems in the 2022 floods.

The second speaker was Dr James Davidson who is a Director of JDA Co, a leading climate resilience architectural and design practice.   He leads the field in urban architecture to withstand climate change impacts. James was a key contributor to the recently published Design Guide for Flood Resilient Homes released as part of the $741M Resilient Homes Fund.  This guide formed the basis of Dr Davidson’s presentation (details at the end of this article).

Tim Quinn, James Davidson, Bruce McNaughton, Mary Maher.
Tim Quinn, James Davidson, Bruce McNaughton, Mary Maher.

Strategic and more specific issues were raised in the two-hour meeting including:

  • Uncertainty has to be worked with – no amount of modelling, regulating or infrastructure will diminish the responsibility of the community and individual householders to plan for flood-impact reduction.
  • The 2022 warning system failed on several of fronts – from inadequate or less than timely predictions to unclear responsibilities to poor communication methods. Then in the later stages of preparation for the flood, people were bombarded with warnings. In several instances community expertise available on the ground or via social media provided more accurate information for householders.
  • The large array of organisations involved in pre- and post-flood planning need to work together more, and work with multiple objectives. Insurance companies, City Council, Bureau of Meteorology, State Departments, big utilities and community organisations have to work with more collaboration and coordination. This array of organisations has been shown to have different priorities, spending, rebuilding requirements and timetables making it fraught for people on the ground who have to re-build their lives in a short time-frame.
  • In some areas habitable flood levels specified in planning scheme may increase in response to increasing flood risks. They need to include enough freeboard (height above the forecast one per cent Annual Exceedance Probability – anticipated flood level) to predict flood extremes experienced from past floods as well as the additional precipitation driven by climate change.
  • ‘Building back better’ is a good motto but a work in progress. A limited number of important pilot designs for resilient housing after 2011 were flood-tested in 2022 and the lessons are still being compiled. The scale of flood-resilient housing provision has to be greatly increased especially in the build back better process, and public funding has to have this as a core objective.

Specific concerns raised in the second hour of the workshop ranged across all the issues of the cuts to electricity, backflow valve provision across the Kurilpa peninsula, flood insurance concerns, stormwater system maintenance, rapid education of all the professions and trades people to ensure they are working with the latest in resilience designs and materials, the steps to accessing housing recovery funding.

Resilient Kurilpa will take the community issues and suggestions further in their project work to improve Kurilpa community’s anticipation, preparation, response to and recovery from future disasters. Two other projects are underway in addition to the tin and timber housing project. These are seen as critical for improving our resilience into the future:

  • Warnings and evacuation routes

  • Apartment / vertical communities and their resilience planning.

Community members were encouraged to register their interest for the Resilient Homes Fund if your home (house, unit, townhouse, granny flat etc) was damaged from flooding in 2021-22 in 2022.  Once the initial eligibility check is complete, resilience experts will conduct a home assessment and prepare a Home Assessment Report. The report will identify opportunities to improve the resilience of your home and provide options to consider that are part of the various programs within the Fund. 

We appreciate that our local State MP, Amy MacMahon could join us for the afternoon. Councillor Jonathan Sriranganathan was an apology.

Continue the conversation

You can join a private Facebook Group to share your thoughts and continue the conversation – see here

Helpful resources:

Dr James Davidson, Design Guide for Flood-resilient Homes

Information relating to Flood Levels:

Floodwise Property Reports

Flood Awareness Mapping

BoM river height gauges:
City –
St Lucia –

BCC 2022 Brisbane River Flood, de Jersey

*parts of these streets: Ryan, Glenfield, Avebury, Dudley, Carlow, lower Gray Road, end of Montague, Forbes, Orleigh, Hill End Terrace, bottom end Hooghly, Drury Streets and Harriet and Scott Streets.

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