Illustration: Eric Lobbecke, The Australian
I became convinced towards the end of 2013 that the Queensland Flood Commission had botched its inquiry and that a terrible truth about the January 2011 Grantham flood had been hidden.
Now an independent hydrological engineering study, commissioned by The Australian, has supported that claim. It points to the collapse of a levee at Wagner’s Quarry as the likely source of the destructive series of waves that killed 3 children and 9 adults with a 500 metre radius in less than hour.
Why didn’t Catherine Holmes’ commission crawl over this incident piece by piece to work out what went on and who was responsible?
As I write in The Australian this morning:
…how many pages of the 653-page floods commission report were devoted to this extraordinary event? Grantham is mentioned in just 28 of them and the two in the index hardly count. Neither do the references on three introductory pages or the nine where the word Grantham appears only in the footnotes.
The five pages that consider Grantham’s post-flood recovery, the three on the local emergency response and the one on the break in the energy supply are, with respect, side issues.
Apart from six passing references, the circumstances of the actual flood in Grantham are confined to just 1½ pages.
Local voices were heard at two community gatherings yet the commission admits “no formal evidence was taken”. Holmes’s report says the meetings were “a useful way for the commission to hear directly from members of the Lockyer Valley community what they regarded as the questions needing to be considered by the commission”.
In The Weekend Australian on Saturday, Amanda Gearing and I pieced together the human story of Grantham and the deep frustration of being let down by the Commission:
Spierling cried when she read the findings. “I’ve said it all along, I’ll say it until the day I die. I will tell you that was a huge wall of water that hit us. And it was coming from the west.”
Marty Warburton saw shipping containers, cars, a house and two bodies floating past his service station. He too cried when the original report was released and he still cries, shaken, pale and quivering, as he recalls the horrors of that dreadful afternoon.
“It’s hard not to think that they’ve got it so wrong because they want to,” he told The Weekend Australian. “We were all treated like stupid problems, basically; you know, like hillbilly hicks. They said: ‘We’ve got to have experts to tell us that.’ If the experts got it wrong, well …”
TODAY’S COLUMN IN FULL
READ THE NEW INDEPENDENT SURVEY OF THE GRANTHAM FLOOD