Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Wet Feet

With Sister at the wheel as we drove between Point Lonsdale and Ocean Grove I remarked I had never seen so much water lying around. It is nice to see a good old fashioned swamp, sorry, wetlands.

'The Point', said Sister as she waved her hand in the direction of the swamp. 'Stocklands! Madden approved it.' Like brother, like sister, we both hate ex State planning minister Justin Madden. Sister is worried that her perceived idyllic location will be spoiled by development. Many others are too and locals are very anti what they see is an overdevelopment on inappropriate land.

Many of us are watching the television and listening to the radio, mesmerised by the disastrous floods in Queensland. One cannot help but suspect that so much housing has been inappropriately built on flood plains. Flood plains are just that, the flat areas that line river banks. They, err, flood.

For someone who has short arms and wears trousers with very deep pockets when it comes to charity, I will make a decent donation to the Queensland government relief appeal and hope the money is spent wisely and not in areas that are government responsibility.

Could the same disaster happen in Melbourne? No, I don't think to the extent it is happening in Brisbane. It would be very odd for southern Victoria and the Yarra catchment to receive so much rain. But, you never know. The Yarra has flooded Melbourne's inner suburbs in the past and could well do so again. Take a look at this photo by Frank Jung.

Now I recall seeing the Yarra in flood where even less of this Yarra River cruise ticket box was visible. Note the footbridge in the background. somewhere below the water is now a cafe, sitting on one of the concrete pontoon looking structures. Yes, there are flood plans in place for the cafe. I was a bit further down the river looking upstream. One's eye is not a good river height measuring device, but if the river rose to a similar height as in the photo, I can see the ground floor level of the World Trade Centre Wharf going under the very least.

It does not puzzle me that Toowoomba residents were caught unaware by the approaching wall of water. I can also recall heavy rain in Melbourne, rain that flooded basement carparks, washed tramway track ballast in Dandenong Road downhill to pile up in a depression and a river of swirling red muddy water form before my very eyes that ran down from the direction of Government House, across St Kilda Road and down Grant Street past Prince Henrys Hospital.

We live near rivers and on flood plains at our peril. I'll leave rising sea levels for another day.


  1. I'm old enough to remember Elizabeth Street flooding in the 70's. I agree though, it's not likely that the Yarra Catchment would get anywhere near enough rain. Still Southbank and the Crown car park could go under if it got bad enough.

  2. There are a lot of things to ask and discussions to be had, but it does seem a sight churlish right at this juncture, I agree.

    Needless to say, the tv coverage is atrocious. I am only reading online now.

  3. It's horrifying to watch the 'floodproofed' city go under. But a few more dry years will see rebuilding and new developments on floodplains again. 'Planning' and 'development' obviously have different meanings these days ...

  4. Anonymous11:23 pm

    Most of those new suburbs springing up along the Westgate Fwy are on flood plains and/or reclaimed swamps. The Greater Melbourne area may not flood often but it has been known to happen - most of us have witnessed it to varying degrees. Continuing to build on flood plains (in any area) is just courting disaster. V.

  5. Hmmm, the Thompson catchment will protect some areas as the new growth of trees (from both logging and bushfires) suck up the water faster than it can drip into the Thompson Dam.
    So I expect that as the former govt was an equal opportunity employer most of the catchment areas have been/are logged to a certain degree, thereby ensuring less moisture in our dams and less moisture to bother us down here in Melbourne.
    Why on earth did we vote them out again...?

  6. agreeing with Julie above, that the TV coverage of Brisbane breakdown is repugnant - they all seem to be revelling in it. Kim Landers on ABC was the worst, I wanted to slap her.

  7. It looks like a highrise Venice, now.

  8. Andrew, I have heard a few stories about the 1934 flood in Melbourne. One story was that the goal posts in a Heidelberg sports ground were completely submerged. Did a quick dig and apparently the Yarra reached '12 meters above normal height ' during that flood. Since then the drainage has been changed but...any development on swamps should not happen.

  9. Anonymous2:53 pm

    Prince Henry's .. there's a place I only just spoke about with friend's yesterday! Cazzie

  10. I remember that 2005 flood. I went around on my bike, taking photos, and sent the set to a colleague. He forwarded them onward. By the end of the day, I got a different set from another colleague, and was surprised to see some of mine in the collection. The set included the one you used (I took a similar pic).

    The Cafe is at the base of the white arch in the background. It only had a foot of water over the lower section. It looked worse than it was.

  11. Loz, I don't actually remember it, but I have certainly heard about the 70s flood since.

    Julie, I suppose because we down south are a bit removed, I felt able to to rant a little. We might have our own water problems anyway.

    Red, Joh said the big dam would flood proof Brisbane. It would seem that was as reliable as our Thompson Dam drought proofing Melbourne. I know people have to live somewhere, but I think it has gone too far.

    V, there are indeed. They are well drained, but if a big one comes???

    Jayne, that was interesting when I first heard about new trees and new growth. I am only going by instinct, but I think the water use by new trees as against established trees is a tad overated.

    Ann, media, ratings, thrills, photo opportunities, raw emotion. You expect better?

    The highrise is high and dry Brian, so long as the basement pumps keep working.

    LiD, it would be interesting to have a look at. 12 metres in the city puts a lot of it under flood.

    I spent some time in casualty there Cazzie. I friend was bitten by a dog. Why did we not go to the Alfred? Why PH?

    Heya Iann. I have seen a couple of photos from that day, but not many. Did you sell some to the media? Or was it too late and they were in general circulation. The planning for the cafe flooding is extensive. I must go there one day, in case it all gets washed away.