13 May, 2024

Bigger floods are possible

A GEOSCIENCE expert is warning that Cairns could get an even bigger flood than what happened last December.

By Nick Dalton

Bigger floods are possible - feature photo

Jonathan Nott, professor of geoscience at James Cook University, said the December event was the city’s biggest flood in 110 years.

“The last time the (Barron River) floodplain was covered with water like that was in 1977, and it wasn’t as high as we had last year,” he said.

But Prof Nott said last December’s flood was not overly big in terms of what Cairns could get.

“Geological evidence points to at least one flood at an unknown time in the past that was at least double the size of what happened in December 2023,” he said.

“They can occur, they have occurred and presumably they will again.” Prof Nott said scientists knew the world was warming.

“We know there’s more moisture in the atmosphere, we know that rainfall events are becoming more intense, floods are becoming larger,” he said.

“Cyclones are going to become more intense. We know these things are happening, so we need to plan properly for them.” 

Prof Nott said councils and governments might find future natural disasters more expensive if they did not become more restrictive about development in natural disaster-prone areas.

“We do need a better planning scheme. We need a different economic approach and political approach to try and solve this, because it’s not going to get any better,” he said.

Prof Nott, along with Prof Bob Wasson, Dr Han She Lim and engineer Iain Brown hosted the “December 2023 Barron River flood – overview, historical context and the future” at JCU’s Smithfield campus on Tuesday night.

In the meantime Cairns Regional Council is developing a plan to assist the community on its path to recovery.

The council has partnered with JCU to conduct a rapid social needs assessment to identify those needs the community feel are important to support their recovery and long-term resilience. 

A council spokesman said the survey would aim to understand both short-term and medium-term recovery needs (up to 12 months), with a view to understanding longer-term support requirements. “This information will support council and its regional partners in promoting and supporting recovery across the Cairns local government area,” he said. The spokesman said the survey was open until today, was anonymous and no identifying personal information would be collected.



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