More than 350 people living in the central Queensland towns of Biloela and Jambin are considering legal action after their homes were destroyed and rendered unliveable following the release of water from the Callide Dam during Cyclone Marcia. The residents of these towns are questioning why SunWater, the owners of the dam, didn’t open the gates and allow the gradual release of water in the days leading up to the cyclone, a move that would have mitigated the levels of destruction the town is now faced with. Instead, SunWater allowed the water levels to rise until the gates opened automatically, sending vast amounts of water into local creeks and rivers, flooding homes and businesses and causing residents to flee their properties.
Residents in the local area weren’t alerted to evacuate until around 9pm on the night the cyclone hit, leaving only a very small window of time for them to secure their homes, grab their belongings and seek shelter at a local school. It was only when the dam’s level boosted to 90% that the floodgates opened, sending the equivalent of approximately 1.8 Olympic swimming pools per second gushing towards the nearby towns.
This is the second time the towns of Biloela and Jambin have been flooded, as many homes and businesses were also inundated with water released from the dam in 2013. This has left local residents wondering why preventative action wasn’t taken this time, with the cyclone warning being issued more than 48 hours before it was estimated to hit the region. Given the amount of agriculture in the area, the destruction has been a heartbreaking loss to many farmers, with the flooding destroying both their home and business, with the loss of crops and livestock. However, residents are also concerned not only by the physical damage done to their properties, but also the effect the flooding has had on property value in the area.
Queensland’s Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk has announced that an independent investigator will be appointed and a full review has been ordered into the dam’s operation.
Written by George Newhouse
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: March 9, 2015.