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Flood warning network aims to help at-risk communities

The national network hopes to give communities more reliable and accurate information.

The national network hopes to give communities more reliable and accurate information. Photo: Getty

A national flood warning network will be set up in a bid to better protect at-risk communities from natural disasters.

The federal government will spend $236 million in the next decade to set up the network, with the Commonwealth to buy and upgrade flood gauges from local, state and territory governments.

It follows advice from independent inquiries set up following last year’s devastating flood season that the federal government assume responsibility for the flood gauge network, which has been previously described as patchwork.

Environment Minister Tanya Plibersek said the upgrade to the network would give more accurate information on flood risks to communities as well as emergency services.

“A lot of those older gauges are really near the end of their life. They can’t be read remotely, which is a real problem. We need to be able to read them remotely, particularly in dangerous times,” she told ABC Radio on Monday.

“The better the flood gauges, the more warning we can give to communities and to emergency services personnel about approaching floodwaters, the more opportunity people have to prepare for the worst.”

Of the flood gauges in the current network, one-third are owned and managed by the Bureau of Meteorology, while the remainder is split between state and territory governments as well as local councils or individuals.

Work on flood gauge repairs will begin first in Queensland, following advice from the bureau due to the state’s high flood risk.

The northern NSW town of Lismore experienced some of the worst floodings during 2022 and Ms Plibersek said the area would also be a focus of upgrades.

“We’re working with the New South Wales government on the next steps there. We’re very keen to see northern New South Wales in particular prioritised,” Ms Plibersek said.

“Sadly, three-quarters of the deaths that have happened in flooding in recent years have been in Queensland and New South Wales and about three-quarters of the economic cost of flooding has been in Queensland and New South Wales.”

Upgrades to high-priority catchments can begin in every state and territory as cost-sharing arrangements are agreed to.

Federal Emergency Services Minister Murray Watt said the national network would help to minimise possible damage from flood events.

“We’ve seen communities hit by terrible disasters in recent years, and this investment will mean people are given time to protect themselves, their property and their land,” Senator Watt said.

“We know that reliable early warnings are critical to keep people safe, and limit the physical impacts and costs of flood events.”

– AAP

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