With the first big “didn’t see that one coming unless you looked out the window” storms of the season hitting Brisbane at the weekend, the timing of the release of two new disaster information tools this week was quite apt, in my opinion.
A new earthquake map and a new national online flood risk portal were both unveiled by the federal government this week. Developed by Geoscience Australia, both tools will be helpful for communities to understand their disaster risk and for planners involved in the future development of our country.
There is a plethora of information available online these days that buyers can access during the research phase of their property purchase. In our capital city, for example, you can find out the current and future flight paths of Brisbane Airport on reiq.com, and drill down to the flood risk of a specific property through the Brisbane City Council website.
And for each and every buyer, the information that these and other tools provide will mean something different. Some will look at the data and say, well, there is a chance my property might flood in the next 20, 50 or 100 years, but I’m happy to take the chance. Others will not be happy with any flood risk whatsoever (which in Brisbane may leave you with limited options except perhaps living on the top of a 20-storey building) and so will head for the hills.
Some of Brisbane’s most prestigious suburbs are located directly under flights paths for Brisbane Airport, but the majority of residents in these areas are happy to put up with some occasional aircraft noise for the views of the river or their location close to the CBD and entertainment precincts.
All buyers have a list of what they are prepared to put up with and what they are not. Some people are happy to put up with living on a main road if it cuts down on their commuting time or is close to public transport options. Others know their area might be prone to specific weather events but the lushness of the bush or the relative isolation of the location more than makes up for the risk in their mind.
I live on the river in Brisbane’s inner-city suburbs. I didn’t live there last year during the floods, but my building was seemingly about four metres under water. What I have learned from living there is that the Brisbane River – although far from aqua blue – is an almost hypnotic vista to have, and I often find myself staring blankly at the water with very little going on between my ears. It is very peaceful.
I have also learned that being on the river seems to be much windier than in the suburbs. Saturday morning’s storm certainly confirmed that assessment. At about 10.40am, as one of the many storms that rolled over our city hit, it was pitch-black in my apartment. I was too scared to turn on any lights so I sat in the dark and listened as the world outside turned topsy-turvy. The wind was howling, all the windows started to shake (and leak, I was to learn later), and I could see white-tipped waves on the usually-tranquil river. The beautiful gum trees at the front of my building were swaying back and forth so violently they were almost bending at right angles.
Scared the windows were about to crack, I moved to the hallway where I would be safe from any shattering glass, and waited. The whole episode took about 15 minutes, but it was long enough for this New Zealand native to start quivering in her boots (well, sandals, actually). You see, I can deal with earthquakes. I grew up in Christchurch. But the big summer storms that hit Queensland almost every year are a relatively new phenomenon that I am yet to fully master. Earthquakes are probably scarier, on measure, but I guess it just depends on what you are used to.
Once the storm had moved onto its next victim, I looked around my apartment to find no damage except one very wobbly resident – me. Outside, on the riverfront, one of the aforementioned gum trees have snapped in half and landed smack-bang in the middle of the swimming pool. It was a surreal sight – although I couldn’t help but be a little annoyed that if it had landed one metre to the left I would have got a new car.