2022 flood lessons, and looking ahead to 2023

This is something I recorded and wrote for ABC Radio.

Many parts of Australia and the world were, this year, impacted by floods. As they head towards 2023, what have been the long-term effects, and what challenges do they still face?

James O’Brien spoke to a panel of ABC journalists: Bruce Mackenzie from ABC North Coast, Sarah Lawrence from ABC Central Victoria, and Suki Sadik from ABC Radio’s Nightlife and Weekend Evenings who comes originally from Pakistan.

“It’s the worst flood in Lismore’s formally recorded history. I’ve heard suggestions that the Bundjalung people talk about something similar happening. But as far as European settlement and formally recorded history, this is the worst one. The one that happened on February 28, was way beyond anything that had been recorded before. We measure floods in meters and 12 meters was as bad as it had ever been recorded. And this was two meters in excess of that. And when you’re talking two meters of floodwater, over such a big area, it’s just enormous.” Says Bruce.

“When you go to Echuca, and Rochester now, which were the locations which flooded quite badly in the region that I report on, it’s dry, it looks normal. You wouldn’t even know looking at the gardens or the lush gardens that they’d been a flood apart from, you know, the fact that that you’re told.”, says Sarah.

While domestic attention has focussed very much on what happened in Australia, many Australians with connections to overseas countries were also directly impacted, including Suki Sadik, who comes originally from Pakistan.

“What Pakistan faced was abnormal, heavy monsoon rains, melting glacier water from the Himalayas, and it managed to submerge one-third of the country. (Even now) it’s probably going to be another six to eight months until the water actually recedes a little bit. And we’re talking devastation that I think Pakistan has probably never seen before. We’re talking about farmers who already were in a very challenged position” says Suki.

In many areas, there were frustrations with the response from the government. But all three noted the very human response.

“A colleague of mine, her mum’s house was flooded, even though it had been raised. A friend of ours had a caravan in her front yard on the Mid-North Coast. So, she hitched it up, and drove it to our place. And then over to my friend’s mom’s place to give her somewhere to live”, says Bruce.

Looking ahead to 2023, Bruce says, “I think the simplest challenge is where do people live. I think the lesson that we’ve learned is just because your property hasn’t flooded in the past doesn’t mean that it won’t flood in the future. Similar to what we saw, during the bushfires. Just because a certain section of forest has never burned in the past. We saw sections of forest up here that was burned that had never been burned in the past, you know, the definition of a safe place to live, I think has changed. And I think that there’s a broad acknowledgment of that. And we’re going to have to question the wisdom of building on flood plains.”, Bruce says.


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