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Earlier releases from Ross River Dam would not have lessened flooding during the natural disaster that struck Townsville early this year, a report has found.

The Queensland Government this week released Inspector-General Emergency Management (IGEM) reviews into the handling of the monsoon trough disaster in North and North West Queensland this year as well as bushfires in 2018.

It said key findings included that the safe operation of the Ross River Dam prevented more widespread flooding in Townsville in February.

The reviews also showed the State should re-assess its risk for heatwaves and bushfires.

Townsville received 1259.8 mm in the 10 days to February 8. The previous record was 925.5 mm (January 1953)

The resulting floods were estimated as between a one-in-500 and one-in-1000 year event.

Operation of the Ross River Dam was a key focus of the IGEM report.

There was speculation earlier releases would have lessened flooding, but the government highlighted review findings to the contrary.

“Arguably there would have been increased flooding’ had the dam been operated differently and ‘the impacts would not have differed appreciably ….had an increased volume of water been released earlier,” the report states.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said the government had accepted either in principle or in full all 37 recommendations the reviews had made.

“In the 2018/19 season, Queensland was hit by 11 separate natural disasters,” she said.

“We continue to fight another – the drought. In a short amount of time communities have come a long way in recovering from the bushfires and the monsoonal trough which is thanks to a lot of hard work.

“But the best way to get ready for the next natural disaster is to learn from the last.”

QFES Acting Commissioner Mike Wassing said QFES had also undertaken their own internal review which complimented the findings of the IGEM report.

“I’m confident with the actions QFES will take following these recommendations, and the work already being undertaken, QFES will be stronger than ever,” he said.

Flood recommendations include: 

  • Better management of evacuation centres especially for vulnerable people and better communication with those in the centres
  • Ongoing development of online ‘dashboards’ as a local point of truth in disasters
  • Better co-ordination of offers of help and donations

Bushfire recommendations include
  • $16 million over four years to improve bushfire management in state national parks and forests
  • More Fire Behaviour Analysts
  • ‘One-Stop-Shop’ for help and advice on fire breaks


Ross River Dam flood review findings released