Matter of Public Importance - Flood Event in Launceston
Mrs Armitage (Launceston) - Mr President, I thank the member for Windermere for raising this matter of public importance. Tasmania's worst floods in 40 years tragically resulted in loss of life. I express my deepest condolences to the families who have lost loved ones to these disastrous floods. I also pay tribute to Tasmania's wonderful emergency services who worked so tirelessly over the period of the floods.
In my own electorate of Launceston, I particularly thank the Launceston City Council and the northern emergency services, the community organisations and the Launceston Flood Authority for their outstanding efforts in both protecting and supporting our city. I also pay special tribute to the two men who are no longer at the Launceston City Council but, as the member for Windermere would know, have been involved and were instrumental in getting this up and going, and that is Geoff Brayford and Steve Ratcliffe. It is very important to mention people who were involved and were with the council previously but are no longer there.
I am told the ferocity of the floods as they furiously raged through the Cataract Gorge was a sight to behold and brought large crowds out to watch. But the massive rainfall in many areas came at a terrible cost, as mentioned by the member for Windermere, to many businesses and households. Tasmanian media reports estimate the damage bill statewide will go as high as $100 million. In Launceston it will run into the millions.
Businesses and households flooded in low-lying areas of suburbs including Invermay and Newstead, which were particularly affected. I have lived there for 60 years and I cannot remember a flood as bad.
The analysis of the multi-agencies' response to the floods is no doubt continuing. I am sure the considerable assessment will take some time.
The chairman of the Launceston Flood Authority, Alan Birchmore, says Launceston's new flood levees performed very well. Before I continue with his comments on that topic I congratulate Alan who was made an Officer in the General Division of the Order of Australia in the Queen's Birthday Honours. Alan received his extremely well deserved honour for distinguished service to business in the maritime, transport and mining fields and to the community of Tasmania, particularly in the area of flood mitigation and management. Alan has been the chairman of the Launceston Flood Authority since 2010. Alan Birchmore says that the Launceston Flood Authority has clear engineering advice that sediment in the Tamar River must be kept low. He says that the sediment in the Tamar River at the time of the recent floods was not as low as they would have liked. It will be suggested to the Tasmanian Government they direct Hydro Tasmania to send more water through the Gorge to flush the river. He adds that the flushing of sediment would also have a beneficial effect on flushing pollutants from the area of the river, assessed by NRM North as being highly degraded. Mr Birchmore notes the promise by the federal member for Bass, Andrew Nikolic, that the Turnbull Government if re-elected will contribute $250 000 to extend flood protection to Newstead. That funding will be matched dollar for dollar by the Launceston City Council.
I am on the public record for advocating for considerable attention and funding to be directed to upgrading Launceston's ageing sewerage system. In 2016 it is inconceivable sewage treatment plants contribute up to 30 per cent of the nutrient loads going into the Tamar River. Our recent floods and those in February give sharp focus to this problem and it needs to be urgently dealt with. You might remember notices came out to people saying, 'Whatever you do, don't touch the water.' For people in flood areas to be told not to touch the water in the City of Launceston in a state of Australia really is beyond belief.
I again congratulate our emergency services, the Launceston City Council, the Launceston Flood Authority and all the agencies involved, both locally and statewide, for their magnificent response to Tasmania's worst flood in decades.