Commission of Inquiry into the 2010–11 Queensland floods

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The Commission of Inquiry into the Queensland floods is an Australian inquiry set up by Queensland Premier Anna Bligh to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deadly 2010–2011 Queensland floods. The independent Inquiry was headed by Justice Cate Holmes and was expected to cost A$15 million.[1] Holmes examined the disaster, government preparedness and the emergency response.

The Inquiry was able to summon witnesses, demand documents and issue search warrants.[1] A total of 345 witnesses were called.[2]

The final report was initially due on the 17 January 2012.[3] This was extended into February due to the quantity of material which has to be processed and analysed.[4] The deadline for submissions was extended to 15 June to allow for submissions related to insurance companies to be included.[4]

The Commission asked independent hydrological expert Mark Babister to investigate the operation of Wivenhoe Dam during the flood period. He found the operators had achieved nearly the best possible flood mitigation effort.[5] The report states that 59% of the downstream flooding was caused by water releases from the dam.

Interim report[edit]

An interim report was handed down on 1 August 2011.[4] This report focused on flood preparedness issues so that any appropriate steps may be taken before the next wet season.[6] The 250-page document contained more than 150 recommendations.[7]

Justice Holmes described the Wivenhoe Dam's operating manual as "a bit of a mess" and that the dam should be temporarily reduced to 75% capacity if an extremely wet season is forecast.[7][8]

Weekend hearings[edit]

On 5 and 6 February 2012 the Commission conducted a weekend sitting to hear new evidence related to Wivenhoe Dam operators.[9] Senior flood engineers who were managing the dam during the floods were accused of disregarding the dam's operation manual and of misleading the inquiry.[10]

On the 6 February, it was announced by Holmes that deputy commissioner Philip Cummins would not attend future hearings involving Seqwater or take his advice on the topic.[11] So as to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest the decision was made after it was made public that Cummins would, when the inquiry was complete, take work with a consultant who had separately been engaged by Seqwater.[12]

Final report[edit]

The final report was handed to Premier Anna Bligh on the 16 February 2012. The 650-page document contained 177 recommendations. Although the Commission's own expert was quoted in the report as finding that the Flood Engineers in charge of Wivenhoe Dam during the flood had achieved "close to the best possible flood mitigation result" <page 524 of Commission's Final Report>, the Commission found that the dam engineers had not complied with the operation manual of Wivenhoe Dam in the lead up to the Brisbane River flood.[13] However, the State of Queensland and six other experts who appeared before the Commission had previously disagreed with this finding and gave evidence during the Commission hearings to that effect.[2][14][15][16] Holmes also found that the manual for dam operations used by the engineers was ambiguous, unclear, impractical and not up to date.[2]

The report also called the for Crime and Misconduct Commission to investigate three flood engineers, John Tibaldi, Rob Ayre and Terry Malone, who were in control of the dam at the time of the flood, regarding their preparation of documents after the event.[16] The Commission considered that their recollection may have been a misleading reconstruction of events rather than a true record of their actions. However the Commission was incorrect in this regard as it was later found by the CMC (following a six-month investigation) that there was no professional misconduct and the three engineers were cleared of any wrongdoing.[17][18] The report also recommended that a flood study of the Brisbane River catchment be conducted which includes a wide range of data and should form the basis of a hydrological model so that planners can explore various scenarios.[19] All Queensland urban areas should have an updated flood study for use in floodplain management.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Daniel Hurst (17 January 2011). "Premier launches flood inquiry". Brisbane Times (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 6 February 2011. 
  2. ^ a b c Annie Guest and staff (17 March 2012). "Flood report paves way for compensation". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  3. ^ "Queensland's flood inquiry: the terms of reference". Brisbane Times (Fairfax Media). 17 January 2011. Retrieved 6 February 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c Maria Hatzakis (27 May 2011). "Inquiry extends time for flood victims' insurance submissions". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 7 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Kym Agius (28 July 2011). "Report backs dam engineers". Brisbane Times (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 4 August 2011. 
  6. ^ Daniel Hurst (1 August 2011). "Queensland flood inquiry to release first report today". Brisbane Times (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  7. ^ a b "Flood inquiry calls for lowering of dam level". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 1 August 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  8. ^ Ursula Skjonnemand (1 August 2011). "Flood inquiry valuable and thorough: dam expert". ABC Brisbane (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). Retrieved 1 August 2011. 
  9. ^ Jared Owens (4 February 2012). "Wivenhoe Dam's operators didn't record manual use during Brisbane floods". The Australian (News Limited). Retrieved 5 February 2012. 
  10. ^ "Government scrambles to find dam engineers". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 7 February 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  11. ^ "Flood inquiry addresses conflict of interest claims". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 5 February 2012. Retrieved 7 February 2012. 
  12. ^ Holmes, Justice Catherine. "Remarks by Justice Catherine Holmes". QFCI. Retrieved 16 February 2012. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ a b Daniel Hurst (16 March 2012). "Three dam engineers in CMC's sights and class action threat: flood report". Brisbane Times (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 17 March 2012. 
  17. ^ Bridie Jabour (21 August 2012). "CMC clears Wivenhoe Dam engineers". Brisbane Times (Fairfax Media). Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  18. ^ "CMC clears Wivenhoe engineers over floods". ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation). 21 August 2012. Retrieved 3 December 2014. 
  19. ^ Waterford, Jack (21 March 2012). "It all comes flooding back". Brisbane Times (Fairfax Media). Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 21 March 2012. 

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