Our lead articles this month relate to flood resilient infrastructure. It is good to see that the Federal and Queensland Governments are investing in rebuilding infrastructure which was damaged in the 2019 floods with infrastructure that is more resilient. What is strange is that it appears that economic stimulus in response to the COVID pandemic is the motivation for spending more than the disaster recovery funding rules would otherwise allow.
At the same time, rural communities in Queensland are opposing the Inland Rail from Brisbane to Melbourne crossing floodplains for fear that it will exacerbate flooding. This is a genuine concern that must be properly investigated but so must the impact of the flooding on the rail infrastructure and disruptions to operations. I would hope that in both instances the designers are looking at the implications of flooding for the full range of flood events and not just using a selected design flood event such as the 1% AEP to assess impacts. High value critical infrastructure is not only costly to repair but has significant indirect costs when it is out of service and those values need to be properly evaluated in the design process.
On the subject of indirect flood impacts, we report this month on research in the UK which has quantified the mental health costs of flooding and this demonstrates that these indirect impacts of floods can be significant and should be included in the evaluation of flood mitigation options.
We also report on the UK flood inquiry which is underway and the submission from the reinsurer Flood RE. The issues it raises are very similar to those we report being raised by Australian insurers to the current Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements: the need for better urban planning, more investment in mitigation, and more resilient buildings. Even with these investments, the insurers are saying that some locations may be uninsurable.
This suggests to me, and is confirmed by work we have done in some high risk floodplains, that there are locations where the consequences of flooding beyond the 1% AEP event are so great that a different standard needs to be applied to urban planning and building design in those places. The challenge for floodplain management professionals is convincing governments and the development industry that the additional costs involved are a worthwhile investment in protecting the future owners of those buildings from the physical losses and mental health issues that they will not be able to afford.