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Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Page: 1020

Mr DUTTON (4:50 PM) —I will start by extending, on behalf of the people of Dickson, very heartfelt sympathy to those people who lost loved ones in the tragedy that took place in Murphys Creek and Grantham in particular and to those who were affected adversely in Toowoomba during the period of devastating floods. It was a remarkable scene as we watched it unfold. It is of course one thing to be able to prepare for the onslaught of a natural disaster, but it is something very different to have waters rising at an incomprehensible rate. When your family is stuck in that situation it must be a horrible and terrible experience. I am sure that I speak on behalf of all my local residents when I say to those people that we felt their loss very deeply. We know that their recovery will be long and protracted. Nonetheless, we hope they have some lift in their spirits by knowing that communities, including ours, right across the Pine Shire, are with them at this very difficult time and in the years ahead, when the difficulty will continue.

Many of our local residents know that the floods followed many weeks of constant rain. Something like 18 inches of rain fell in a six-hour period in a catchment area around Dayboro, which I will use as one example. It was quite a devastating blow. About a metre or a metre and a half of water came through the main street unexpectedly. There is, of course, a huge catchment above and around Dayboro, particularly in the Mount Glorious region. That rain that fell into Dayboro had a devastating impact on businesses and people. I make special mention of those living in areas like Laceys Creek. They really were quite lucky, right across that particular area, that no life was lost. Walking through Dayboro watching the sheer force of water—the way it had moved shipping containers and the way it had moved mobile cold rooms that were storing the ice at the Matilda service station in Dayboro—was quite remarkable. Considering the people who were in the post office, people who were in the IGA and people who were in the local real estate agencies, it really was remarkable that nobody lost their life during that process. The devastation was quite remarkable at Laceys Creek, in particular to property but also in terms of loss of stock. It will take all of these people a long time to recover.

Devastation was also wreaked in other parts of my electorate, including in and around the North Pine Dam region in particular—people living in Whiteside, in Grant Street. I know that Gerard Fernando, by way of just one example, is a resident who has been particularly adversely affected. He represents many others, and many of these people are angry and asking questions at the moment about whether reasonable amounts of water were released from the North Pine Dam in the lead-up to this event. All of those questions are rightly asked, and I hope they are properly answered at the current inquiry. People, particularly local residents in Pine Rivers, deserve answers. Their properties were adversely affected, their lives were turned upside down and they have incurred enormous damage that will take a long time to recover from.

I also make special mention today of the people of the Esk shire. The people in the Esk shire were part of the Dickson electorate up until the 2010 election. Although I only had responsibility for that area for a three-year period, I created a lot of good and enduring friendships in that part of the world. Again, to see the sheer destructive force of the water that struck some of those communities really does bring a tear to your eye. They are a resilient people, many of whom have endured heartache before by way of natural devastation. They are rebuilding their lives, their properties and their livelihoods, and they will go on to bigger and better things. Nonetheless, it is right that we recognise in this place the enormous difficulties they have faced and will continue to face for a long time to come.

I want to use my time to raise a couple of residents’ issues just to give an indication, by way of example, of the enormous stress and pressure that people were under when they were displaced from their houses. In many cases they were families with young children. They had an enormous challenge and most of them rose to the challenge. I visited Amanda and Michael Soteriou and their neighbours Deborah and David Aldrick in Highvale. The landslide that took place behind the Aldrick’s house completely devastated the side of their house. Had they been in a different place, as they had been only a couple of minutes before the land gave way, undoubtedly a tragedy would have resulted. Thank God that that did not happen. But the fact is they incurred tens of thousands of dollars of damage to their home. It is something they have grappled with, and will continue to grapple with, particularly because there were difficulties around the insurance aspect. I hope that that is now clarified and their insurer will provide them with support.

Another devastating effect took place for Michael Pollard, of Strathpine, who lost his backyard and had to bring in tonnes of rocks to stop his house from sliding away. Residents of Rose Lane, in Laceys Creek—the Saurels, the Sergeants and the Kings—lost all contact when the phone lines and poles were destroyed. They had no mobile phone coverage and many of them had no landline contact either. It was a particularly worrying period for those families who were not able to make contact with their loved ones and for those people who were stranded in the floods. It is something that we have taken up with Telstra. I want to see immediate action in relation to this particular issue. They do need permanent mobile phone coverage in that region, not just because it is a growing community but also because these people have no other means of contact, particularly in cases of emergency like this.

I would also like to mention some of the sporting clubs that were devastated by the inundation of floodwater—the Pine Rivers Swans AFL Club and the Pony Club at Youngs Crossing. These clubs, amongst others, incurred enormous damage. Fortunately they have a great volunteer supporter base. I helped for a short period of time with the clean-up at the AFL club and saw all of the volunteers there. These people were affected in their own homes and went to work elsewhere in the community to help others who were less fortunate. I pay tribute to them today as well.

I would also like to recognise in particular the work of the police officers from the Dayboro Police Station. Senior Constable Troy Nowitzki, who was essentially in charge of the operations at Dayboro when the floodwaters were rising very quickly, had the additional stress of having his partner, who was returning from Brisbane, cut off by floodwaters. That made his job particularly difficult. I intend to write to the Police Commissioner of Queensland to recommend special recognition for Senior Constable Nowitzki and, indeed, the other emergency service workers who were on the ground—the rural fire brigade and the first responders. All of those people made the difference between us losing no lives and what could have been a very poor and dreadful outcome. This work, which has been widely acclaimed, particularly that of Senior Constable Nowitzki, does deserve to be recognised in a special way. I believe that the local community, through their fundraising efforts, through the way in which they have been able to rebuild the community, help their neighbours and help people in the local business district, have really honoured what is a wonderful community in Dayboro and the broader region. I think that is a great credit to them as well.

I would also like to recognise, on behalf of our local community, all of those people who have been affected in the Brisbane City Council and Ipswich regions. In many cases they had time to prepare for the onslaught, but nonetheless, for many, nothing could prepare them for the inundation and devastation to their home, their property and their family. Many of those people will not recover from the floodwaters of this year. Many of them have incurred unbelievable financial stress, and that will continue to go on for many years to come.

It is also right that we recognise those people who were affected by the cyclones in the north. I think we all went to bed on the night of Cyclone Yasi feeling sick because it was about to cross the coast somewhere around Cairns. It was not much consolation for those people in the affected areas, but thank God, in a way, that it did not cross a more highly populated area. That category 5 cyclone would have been absolutely devastating, so we are grateful in some small part. But of course, as I say, that is no consolation for all of those people who were adversely affected, and I say on behalf of my local community that we want to extend every assistance that we possibly can to you.

I would like to close by thanking my staff. Not only did they have threats to their own homes and property but also at one stage we had to evacuate our office. So, to Sandy, Olwyn, Cath, Rosemary, Lyndel, Jodie, Trevor, Tom, John and all of those people, staff and volunteers, who were involved, I say thank you very much for not just being good guardians of our office but, more importantly, providing valuable assistance to the residents of Pine Rivers in their darkest hour. I was impressed by the contribution of these people in making a tangible difference to the way in which some people were able to respond. Our negotiations are ongoing, as I say, with some of the insurers, but nonetheless I think we are going to get a positive outcome, and if we do not I will be pursuing those companies through this place and in the public domain as well.

I might also say that when I visited the emergency management centre at Caboolture, which was based in the shire council offices up there, I was impressed with the professionalism on the day and also, of course, with the professionalism and the amazing volunteerism of those people who were involved in the SES, the emergency services and the council—and with all of those people who responded in a voluntary capacity. It really did make a difference in people’s lives. For that I say thank you very much, and I commend you absolutely.

These events, for all of us who have grown up in Queensland, are—particularly over the summer period—a frequent reminder of what it means to live in the state and in the subtropical region as we move further north. It was an issue as all of us were growing up. I can vividly remember hiding under desks at school on a Friday afternoon when storms rolled across and watching devastation take place with violent hailstorms and the like. That is the area that we choose, very proudly, to call home, but sometimes Mother Nature can be very cruel. That we suffered no loss in our local area is something that we are very grateful for, but nonetheless the scars for many will remain for a lifetime. The financial burden imposed on many will mean that they never recover from that burden. Nonetheless, we are grateful for the efforts of all of those who were able to mitigate and offset some of the enormous stress that people went through over a horrific summer, and I commend this condolence motion to the House.