Latrobe Valley locals appear at Vic Flood Inquiry

The gaps in emergency warnings during the June 2021 Latrobe Valley floods were highlighted by local resident experts who travelled to Melbourne to present to the Victorian Parliament’s Upper House Flood Inquiry.

Conducted by the Environment and Planning Committee, the Inquiry is examining the 2022 flood event in northern Victoria and Melbourne but at the request of The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria, Melina Bath is also including the 2021 Traralgon flood.

Former Manager of Emergency Management Latrobe City, Lance King and local flood expert, Ken Skinner spoke to the Inquiry about the problems in the flood warning system and made recommendations for future improvements.

Ms Bath, a member of the Committee thanked Mr King and Mr Skinner for providing practical solutions for government agencies to implement to better preparing locals who received inadequate warnings during the 2021 flood event.

“Their extensive knowledge on flooding in the Traralgon Creek catchment, the need for ‘real time’ monitoring by emergency services and appropriate response actions was well received by the Committee.

“Mr King and Mr Skinner made important points about Emergency Management Victoria (EMV) using trusted local knowledge to help with communication and responding to major flood events.

“They made a compelling case for identified local experts to be embedded into the EMV’s Incident Control Centre (ICC), to assist with the early and correct dissemination of information so the community can adequately prepare for inundation of their homes and streets.

“Real time monitoring through a reliable network of rain and river gauges and rapid flood warnings targeted to households, businesses and community groups was emphasised.

In his submission to the Inquiry on the 2021 Traralgon flood Mr King said, “The Vic Emergency App and generalised warnings circulated through various media outlets has not proven sufficient to meet communities needs and requirements.”

When asked to comment on EMV’s response and the community confidence in the current flood warning system Mr Skinner said, “No – I don’t think the community has any comfort”, while Mr King simply said, “I think we went backwards from 2010”.

Mr King called for flood overlay maps that are activated by the ICC to deliver emergency alerts.

Ms Bath said community groups such as the Traralgon Football Netball Club and Traralgon Men’s Shed were still displaced, struggling to recover from the 2021 Traralgon flood.

“The Committee was informed that timely flood warnings, information dissemination from ICC and supported community networks must be improved.”

The Environment and Planning Committee report is due to be handed down on 30 June 2024.