Although this week’s release of the US Army Corps review of the SeqWater Flood report brings to an end the formal review of matters surrounding the 2011 Queensland Floods, the saga appears set to continue with a massive lawsuit possibly in the works.
The report does bring relief, though, to the engineers accused of not doing all they could to prevent the disaste, and to Engineers Australia Queensland president Steven Goh, who has been steadfast in supporting them.
“The events surrounding the floods have been thoroughly examined by the Queensland Flood Commission of Inquiry,” Goh says. “They found that the engineers involved in the operation of Wivenhoe Dam achieved as close to the best possible outcome as could be expected.”
Goh added that the Crime and Misconduct Commission conducted a thorough investigation into the conduct of the three engineers involved and cleared them of any wrongdoing.
“Over the last 18 months, the actions of the Wivenhoe Dam engineers have been placed under the microscope,” he says. “After this exhaustive review process, it is clear that the professional engineers involved performed their role admirably under trying circumstances.”
The report did contain some damning information, noting that the dam is far more dangerous than previously believed. It also further reinforced previous criticism of the dam’s manual, warning that the collapse of dam walls at either Wivenhoe or Somerset would lead to a large death toll in the southeast.
Despite the engineers being cleared, personal injury law firm Maurice Blackburn Lawyers said the report was immaterial to the flood victims’ compensation case. That case implies the dam was overburdened before operators went into a panic and drained it. The number of people with a “complaint” was now approaching 5,000, the law firm said, adding that they had international experts preparing their own reports on the flood event.
Former Labour Premier Anna Bligh had indicated the government and dam operator Seqwater would potentially negotiate some compensation claims but new Premier Campbell Newman was less clear on his government’s position.
“People who have a complaint, they will have to look at these things and make a judgment,” he said. “It is a free country.”
Newman also ruled out reducing the dam to 75 per cent capacity to increase the flood compartment after weather forecasts downgraded fears of a La Nina, which brought torrential rain in recent years, saying only an average rainy season was expected.