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Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Page: 364

Mr BUCHHOLZ (Wright) (18:49): In the final days of 2010 and early days of 2011 the electorate of Wright endured a level of flooding which was incomprehensible, a level of flooding that changed the lives of many people in the community and a level of flooding which will have a lasting impact on their psychological wellbeing.

The 2010-11 floods were floods that one should only have to endure once in a lifetime, but these communities have had to endure once again this unprecedented amount of water through the electorate. In certain places we had more inundation, higher levels of water, than we had in the previous flood. In the 2010-11 floods we suffered an enormous loss of life. I do not know if one can steel oneself to loss of life, but do you thank God that we only lost three people? It is not something we celebrate but something our community will mourn.

Again, the Lockyer Valley was not spared. This time it was the communities of Laidley and the Glenore Grove districts. To paint a picture of Laidley: it is a small country town with one main street with a couple of branches. It has got showgrounds, a high school and predominantly everyone knows everyone. There was not one business in the main street which was spared from the flood. At the top end of the street probably a foot of water went through businesses—enough to have destroyed the furniture or to have put a layer of silt over their floors; enough to throw their businesses into absolute turmoil. At the other end of the street, the water was about two-thirds of the way up businesses walls.

If I take you on a visual journey into the grocery shops, Foodworks—IGA was a little bit higher—in Laidley from about eye level down, every product line on their shelves was destroyed. These are the businesses that are still trying to recover from financial hardship because, even for those businesses that were insured in the last floods, there are always out-of-pocket expenses which cannot be claimed.

The main street of Laidley again felt like a war zone, but it was humbling to see the community rally together—and I compliment the younger generation of Laidley, that got out and became the mud army. You could go to any business, help them pull out their furniture, pull up their carpet, pull out anything in the sea of mud—anything that you could see that was visible—and it would be thrown onto the street. In the main street, the council had six little bobcats pushing everything into a pile and a convoy of semitippers or body-tippers came through the main street to try and get the place into some sort of order. The very next day, after the bulk was cleaned out of the commercial precinct, the same street was still alive with pressure cleaners trying to get rid of the silt—there was a lot more silt and mud in this flood.

The Mount Sylvia area, which is a valley, took the brunt of the water. When we talk about water, we are talking about a year's worth of rainfall in three days, so we are talking about landslips down the sides of mountains that have taken out infrastructure, power poles. These people had just had road infrastructure finished only months beforehand—seven crossings to get into these places—destroyed; heart-breaking. For the last two years they have been compromising and working patiently with construction crews to try and get their lives back to some kind of normality.

A laser leveller is a machine which levels farmland. On the Thursday before the rain started on the Sunday night, one farmer in the area had just had the laser leveller leave after levelling land from the 2011 flood. They had not yet received the invoice only to wake up to washouts—if I were to stand in beautiful, black fertile soil, I would disappear—in excess of eight feet and, in other parts of the electorate, 14 feet or deeper.

In addition to that, there were growers that had just purchased gypsum. They had stocked $20,000 worth of gypsum. It was stockpiled in a paddock. You looked and said, 'Where's the gypsum?' There was no evidence that it had actually been delivered. Every last skerrick of the powder had gone. Again, there is still no invoice received for the out-of-pocket costs.

The mental anguish, the psychological trauma and the emotional heartache that these people, the people of Wright, are currently enduring is something that we need to be cognisant of as a government. We can rebuild infrastructure—we can do that well—but I am truly more fearful this time as to the health, mental health and wellbeing of my electorate, as some might say: 'This is just too hard. I can't go on. I can't rebuild again. I'm maxed out with my banks. The land that I would normally rebuild on is now a creek. It is just not economically viable to go down that track.'

Let me go to another part of the electorate, because obviously it draws on my emotions to be able to hold to continuation. Take Mount Tamborine, a beautiful iconic rainforest-style part of my electorate. The trees, with their heavy leaves and foliage, were affected. Those people there were affected for a minimum of six days by loss of power. Can you imagine this? In itself, when you say in a sentence 'six days without power' it is not that traumatic. But take into consideration that most of these people and communities do not have town water and actually run things off tanks and pressure pumps. So consider it when you are getting to day 4, when you have not had a shower and your septic runs on a pressure pump so even a basic task of trying to use the toilet is beyond your capability—and all this was around the time when we were trying to get kids back to school.

Let us go then to Jimboomba and other parts of my electorate which were affected. They were cut off from their main commercial centres for three to four days by the unprecedented heights of water levels they experienced. These were parts of the community which were spared in the last flood, so there was no corporate knowledge and understanding of floods. These people were affected for the first time.

The most severe damage to our prime agricultural farming land would have been most definitely in the Fassifern Valley and the Tarome Valley. I know these people to be the salt of the earth. I know them to be great Australians. They are the people who are always the first to help within their community when there is a need. I suggest that at this time the need they require to be met is far greater than what the community can respond to. We have to now enter into a partnership with these guys, from a state government perspective and a federal government perspective. To date, through no fault of the federal government, the area within the valleys has not yet been declared category C. The Attorney-General's office is still seeking information from departments in Queensland. I will do everything within my power that is humanly possible to try to get that information. At the outset I had the benefit of understanding, from costs of the previous flood, the costs of rebuilding. I can tell you that with these areas the number is going to start at $100 million plus. I am sure that once inspections have been made of the devastation through these areas category D criteria will be implemented. We need to help these people because otherwise I am very concerned that they are not going to make it.

So I have moved through my electorate, which is 7½ thousand to 8,000 square kilometres.

I could not have been as effective in working with my communities without the assistance of our state members up there, Ian Rickuss in the Lockyer and Jon Krause in Beaudesert. I would speak to either of them two or three times a day, still trying to understand the community's needs.

We have encouraged our local communities to use the local councils as their first ports of call in trying to help with the recovery. Steve Jones, Mayor of Lockyer Valley, and his councillors, have done an outstanding job in this rebuild. It is not a great badge of honour to wear that Steve Jones becomes a very effective mayor because of the experiences he had two years ago. I am sure he wishes that he and all of his councillors had been spared the heartache of the work they have done. Mayor John Brent and his councillors from the Scenic Rim escaped a lot of the hardship and devastation in the last flood, so this is unprecedented country, unprecedented times and extraordinary circumstances for this council to fathom. They are a motivated and collective team and they work closely with their communities. I know that they will do everything to make sure the assessment process is given every opportunity.

The emergency response teams, the SES, police officers—we just do not pay these people enough. No money can substitute for their contribution when you have someone—as you walk into their business or onto their farm—before you even open your mouth to speak to them, greet you with open arms and cry for 15 minutes and wait to compose themselves. There are our volunteers, the mud army, the neighbours and those who rallied and helped people in their communities. They did not know them. They knew of their businesses but did not know them personally. Our community will be a better place tomorrow, as a result of generational change that is the next group coming through.

I will reserve my comments for the insurance companies for a later stage. As insurance companies try to sneak out the back door I do not want to miss the opportunity to line them up, and they should be under no illusion that we will not be coming after them.

In closing, I thank the work that the media, on all fronts, did on television, radio and in print in getting the message out as the water levels were rising, and in sending out sanitary and boiling water to communities until processes could be reinstated. I am under no misconception that this is going to take the electorate of Wright many years to rebuild. In some circumstances, regretfully, there will be businesses that are unable to rebuild. The financial hurdle will be too great. The emotional hurdle will be too great. To those people: my heart goes out to you.