Must heed the lessons of the past

QUEENSLAND weather events are normally not international news. Seasonal disasters – bushfires, floods, cyclones, rains, and in recent memory the worst drought in 100 years – are all part of life in our world.

The difference last summer was the ferocity of the events and the magnitude of the affected area.

All 73 of Queensland's 73 Local Government areas were disaster-activated. Last summer Queensland was strangled by seven separate disasters.

The scale and scope of the disasters was unimagined and the subsequent size of our reconstruction task unprecedented.

In total, 37 lives were lost, thousands of homes and businesses destroyed, thousands more people displaced, and a damage bill of almost $6 billion.

But now all ports are operational, almost all rail lines open and, of the 9000 kilometres of damaged state road, more than 6600km have reopened.

Finally, as of two weeks ago, all schools are now operating from their original locations.

Since settlement, flooding in the Queensland country town of Clermont, 250 kilometres north-west of Rockhampton, was considered an accepted inconvenience for a town built on a flood plain.

We chuckle at the 1870 stories of patrons at the local pub enjoying a few drinks –chest deep in water.

Some 45 years later, Clermont flooded again. At that time 600mm of rain swamped the town.

In scenes reminiscent of the Lockyer Valley in January, waters devastated the town of 1500, killing 61 people.

Clermont's “great flood” remains the second most deadly flooding event in Australian history.

In the weeks and months following that flood, many of the town's wooden buildings were rebuilt on higher ground.

Shoot forward almost 100 years to the most devastating images of our summer; to Grantham where an inland tsunami literally tore through with stunning ferocity.

Now, just 12 weeks since the Queensland Reconstruction Authority was established, a Master Plan for the relocation of Grantham is complete and by year's end, we hope to see people in their new homes on higher ground.

There's no doubt the state is getting back to business, especially given some fine weather, but it's not all plain sailing.

The insurance industry response has been heavily criticised. It is not good enough that more than three months after these events some people still have no determination on their claim.

Not everyone reads every word of an insurance policy and obviously we should.

But too many people believed they had the right level or type of insurance only to cruelly find out afterwards they did not.

These events present critical learnings for us all and I am confident that insurance companies are reviewing their process and policies to improve the service and coverage they provide.

Our efforts are on track and the State and Federal Governments are putting billions of dollars in to repair our state; but I think the thing that will see us through, more than the money, is Queensland's “never say die” spirit.

We still have a long way to go and we need to look after each other, and give our mates a hand.

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