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The sleeping giant

The Brisbane River. There were huge floods in 1974 and 1975, then the country moved into about 35 years of drought.

During those floods, certain stretches of land by the river were inundated. Some of them were taken away by the water entirely.

When the waters receded, much of that land was zoned as flood-prone and no longer permitted to be zoned for building. Some of the land was reclaimed so that roads and streets could at least be reconstructed where the floods had taken the ground away.

But human memory is short.

When the Brisbane Museum was moved from its old home across from the Royal Brisbane Hospital, I voiced my concerns about the new location being placed so low and so close to the river. The Art Gallery and State Library moved in there with it.

Someone, somewhere somehow managed to get planning permits for high-rise luxury condos to be built on land that was formerly denied planning permission due to its flood status. These buildings sprang up in all the major flood zones by the river.

With such a long drought, even issues of ensuring sufficient drainage in parts became neglected, and drainage became routinely under-engineered.

Now the sleeping giant has awoken again. The river peaked at 4.46 metres over its normal levels, drowning luxury apartments and their foundations, the Museum, Library and Art Gallery. When climate-change researchers predicted this flooding in recent years, they were mocked by the public.

Three and a half decades is just a bump in climate terms – barely an eyeblink, meteorologically speaking -  but it’s far more than long enough for us to forget the past.

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Categories: Australia, Opinion.

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