Road closed flood sign

Queensland councils have warned that a lack of federal funding for flood warning systems is putting communities across the state at risk, following findings from a Bureau of Meteorology (BOM), Queensland Reconstruction Authority and Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) study. 

The study found that the state is relying on an aging patchwork of flood gauges that are operated and maintained by different authorities.

Queensland councils have also warned of the other challenges they face, such as hard-to-find maintenance expertise and parts, lightning strikes, crocodile threats and solar panel thefts from gauges – leaving ratepayers vulnerable and picking up the bill. 

LGAQ Chief Executive Officer, Alison Smith, said the study showed the need for a properly-funded, consistently-maintained warning system.

Ms Smith said that in 2022 the State Government committed to pay its share of the upgraded system and, in the wake of Queensland’s repeated floods, it was critical the Federal Government now stepped up too.

“Instead of Australia’s most disaster-prone state having the best possible warning system, we have one where some communities rely on weather monitors wading through dangerous flood waters to manually read gauges so they can protect their neighbours, friends and family,” Ms Smith said.

“Councils want to be reassured that the flood warning network that helps protect their communities is fit for purpose and appropriately maintained.”

On top of much-needed upgrades, the scoping study proposed 89 extra river height stations and a further 364 rainfall stations where the risk of flooding is most acute.   

Cassowary Coast Regional Council Mayor, Mark Nolan, said his community could handle extreme tropical weather but needed an early-warning system to  rely on.

“We had an issue a couple of years back where our flood gauge on North Johnstone River failed and people woke up with a metre of water in their homes,” Mayor Nolan said.

“Early warnings save lives.” 

Douglas Shire Mayor, Michael Kerr, said a broken gauge meant Daintree residents received little warning to prepare to be cut off by floodwaters in late February.

Mayor Kerr said the prediction was for a 6m Daintree River, which ended up being 8m instead – taking the community by surprise. 

“Having those gauges is so important in tropical regions like this,” Mayor Kerr said. 

“The more information we have, the better and the safer we can be.

“We had no ferry, so no access to the Daintree for two days, three days.

“We can’t plan for things if you don’t have the warnings.

“It’s so important to have as much information as possible and to plan for it.

“Once it starts flooding, our community can’t get to sandbags, they can’t get to the town so we need to give them enough warning so they can get to places to get what they need to ensure they will be safe over the period when no one can get to them.”

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