Moving to higher ground – the debate on the floodplain



Moving to higher ground – the debate on the floodplain

The potential for small communities facing high risk of catastrophic flood damage to retreat to safer nearby areas was the focus of an evening Suncorp hosted this week.

As a member of the Flood Community of Practice, the Group held a forum with international flood retreat expert and visiting US Professor Nicholas Pinter which looked at the options for high risk towns, and the potential for managed relocations.

“How we manage flood risk in the face of climate change and population growth is increasingly important,” said Suncorp Acting Executive Manager, Government, Industry and Public Policy, Josh Cooney.

“In Queensland, the township of Grantham was relocated from the floodplain to higher ground post the extreme 2011 floods. As an industry, it’s important to look at the full range of policy options available for vulnerable communities. Exploring the viability of managed relocations in towns that are more prevalent to risk is worthwhile thing to do.

“There is debate that says change in weather patterns and water tables, is imminent. It’s certainly pertinent that Suncorp takes part in that debate,” Mr Cooney said.

Professor Nicholas Pinter from University of California, Davis spoke on his knowledge of American communities that had successfully relocated.

In the US, there has been over 30 town relocations, spanning a range of successes, failures and human foibles. “Each one of these relocations has a story of repeated challenge and devastation through flooding, prior to location.”

Mr Pinter said there are communities where the decision to move to higher ground had split them in two. “There is not always a consensus. It takes strong leadership, and usually comes after a significant and traumatic flood event.”

“Wholesale relocation can be a cost effective and humane solution for communities at risk of spiralling flood damage,” Mr Pinter said. “But it needs to be part of a broad portfolio of options, in the future.”

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