Use of levees essential to minimising future floods

LEVEE banks should be an essential part of mitigating floods, recent flooding in Bundaberg and close calls in Grafton revealed this week, the head of the Insurance Council of Australia said on Tuesday night.

The ICA chief executive Rob Whelan told ABC Television that the use of levees, improved planning practices and more flood mitigation infrastructure were essential to minimise future floods.

He said the price of insurance premiums directly affected the risk of floods in areas such as Bundaberg and Grafton.

"So the insurance companies are now reflecting the true risk, and as you said, those properties that have flooded before, many of these properties have flooded probably two or three times in certain parts of Queensland in the last five years," he said.

Mr Whelan said some work had been done to help mitigate the risk of floods in coastal areas and those close to major rivers.

"New South Wales, for example, historically has actually put in levee banks around certain communities like Lismore and Grafton," he said.

"They were actually protected from this recent flood because they had levee banks protecting them.

"So the damage was minimal compared to what's happening, say, in Bundaberg which is a catastrophe in Bundaberg.

"Those people are not protected; they're exposed to that risk."

Mr Whelan said while local councils needed to be more careful when considering flood plains and risky areas to development, state and federal government should also play their part.

"State government have a vested interest in that being done and federal governments also have a vested interest rather than paying after the event, they actually put funds towards preventing the event in the first place," he said.

"As I said, there's a huge return on investment for spending those dollars in prevention rather than restoration.

"So I think all levels of government basically have a responsibility to do something."

Prime Minister Julia Gillard told reporters on Wednesday the Federal Government did not have an estimate of the damage yet, and she was concerned about under-insured people.

"My message is always to people that they should be appropriately insured," she said.

"We do work to support people at times of natural disaster, but government will never be able to be wholly there to substitute for the benefits of appropriate insurance."

Mr Whelan said in places like Queensland, where homes built near rivers and on the coast were traditionally raised on stilts, helped to minimise the damage.

"So much of the development recently has been concrete slabs right next to the river. They're going to flood," he said.

"The old Queenslanders sit and watch the flood go by and then get back on with life."

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