Monday, 31 January 2011

living in filth?

People often go about their daily business and remain ignorant of the systems and methods we use to enable ourselves to live.

People who live in western countries are often oblivious as to why we live comfortable lives and places in developing countries are often squalid and filthy. Much of public health comes from clean water and effective waste water disposal.

I read today that the floods have damaged the Brisbane waste water treatment plant:

Department of Environment and Resource Management (DERM) director general John Bradley said Oxley Creek's enterococci levels, which indicate sewage contamination, were "250 times higher" than normal.

"Unfortunately there's nothing to stop that sewer outflow coming into Oxley Creek," he told ABC Radio.

"Queensland United Utilities has a team of 60 people working around the clock to get the plant back online.

"But that's still likely to be six weeks before they have got disinfection processes in place to remove the sewage contamination."

Mr Bradley said there were concerns for the health of fish. "Queensland Health have advised people to avoid coming into contact with water in the Brisbane River system and also Moreton Bay," Mr Bradley said.

its lucky for us we have separation of water supply and waste water treatment, unlike some areas of Australia where the water supply comes from the river ...

So we need to be careful in our planning and building that we don't make our systems fragile enough that they can be destroyed by a natural disaster and have us all living in filth.

Think about how long it would take Brisbane (let alone Sydney or Melbourne) to become unlivable if utilities such as:
  • water
  • waste water
  • garbage
  • transport

broke down.

We'd quickly be living in filth

Saturday, 29 January 2011

how wrong thinking perpetuates false facts

Why do people just go on repeating things, with no concept of the meaning of what they are saying. Its how, once something gets into the public consciousness its hard to get rid of it. Stupid shit like "the world is the center of the solar system" perpetuates because the people in charge of communications perpetuate it.

Climate Change is currently all the rage and quite a significant contentious issue, but it shits me to tears when people (who don't have a clue) pull out current buzz words to jazz up their articles.

Here's a classic example:

Looking into the article we see something completely different; its raising taxes for repairing the flood damage ... Susan either has no idea that the flood is not linked to Climate Change or is simply trying to make her headline stand out from the pack of other writers.

However she essentially does her small part in confusing the public and perpetuating the mis-information about climate issues. If you have any interest in understanding why I say this is not related to "Climate Change" I encourage you to listen to this podcast with Professor Stewart Franks, interviewed recently on the ABC

Susan, if you are not part of the solution you are part of the problem.
So, what she really should have written was "Australia raises a tax to assist in flood recovery"

more accurate and to the point.

Attributing things to wrong causes simply makes defeating that thing easier when there is no relationship found. So when people identify that there is no link to climate change the will rightly attack the levy for the wrong reasons.

Susan ... stop being part of the problem.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Draining the Spit

we tried to go swimming yesterday on the beach which is 10Km from our home. When we got near to the location we found that the Police had closed the road.

We were taken aback as there was nothing published about this, no sign on the entry, nothing.

I called the Road Traffic authority this morning and found that the reason police had closed it was to "allow it to drain". So the Police were in effect doing what every trumpet player does, which is to drain the spit.

Nice expression and neatly sums up how I feel about the vast tide of people who now come here every holiday.

Since the 50's the Gold Coast has been portrayed by "business leaders" as variously:
  • a great place to invest in real estate
  • a grate place to come and be unemployed and just hang out
  • famous for fun
Its a circus .. come one come all ...

Well if you live here for long enough it starts to grate. If you've lived here for 10 years you start to get the shits with things because in that time development will have made it more crowded, more hassle, and more annoying then when you arrived.

The Spit is the classic example of blatant irresponsible development. Out on the Spit we have:
  • public boat access
  • public beach access
  • major hotels
  • major tourist attractions (like Sea World)
with one thin road as access into it.

As you can see you come in to the Gold Coast on (say) the Smith St entrance you funnel down to Marine Parade. From there there is really nowhere for those 4 lanes of traffic you came down the M1 in to go to, as the ultimate squeeze will happen as you go across the bridge and attempt to go into either Surfers Paradise, or over onto the spit (and up to Sea World or any of the other "attractions").

With thousands of cars attempting to get in and get out at the same time on a road with roundabouts no wonder it bloody clogs up.

Yesterday was Australia Day and like almost any other day which attracts heaps of people to the coast the place was filled up, and the Police blocked off the road access into the Spit.

What is annoying to a resident like me is that there was no sign, no warning, nothing at all to let me know that I should just stay inside my home and not go out.

Growing up on the Gold Coast you learn as a kid that holiday times mean your favorite places to hang out are suddenly over crowded with a bunch of people who have no respect for you and think that they own the place. Naturally this creates a feeling that tourist = negative.

Strangely enough things get worse when you get older as the only jobs in the area are in "service" positions kowtowing to and cleaning up after these people. It does not create any positive aspects for the local people. Actually this story can be found all over the world where tourists are encouraged to flock and frolic.

Back to the urban development issue, its worrying that this development was allowed to occur in the first place. It is more worrying that the Government has removed public transport into the place (notice the street called Railway street just there in Southport?)

Well that's where the old Southport railway station used to go to. From there its just a quick walk to the broardwater and easy to provide effective transport around the place.

But now the station is out at Helensvale ... so people just drive here.

Like all things in this country its all about allow someone with a lot of money to make more and the locals and general taxpayer to sort out getting around the problems created by it all.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

the price of juice

Filled the scooter this morning (took 12l) and had to pay just over $18 for the pleasure.

Gosh, it wasn't that long ago that it was under $12. I wondered "why is fuel going up so much lately" and a quick look at the spot prices seems to show that crude is going up too.

strangely however compared to a few years ago it is only just re-gaining ground on the 2008 prices ...

I don't recall paying AUD$1.4 / liter for fuel back in 2008 ... so why the spike now?

Is it just that the real value of the dollar is falling? Personally I find currency fluctuations make looking at things difficult ... so lets toss in gold values from Kitco(instead of that fiat paper monopoly money stuff)

So while oil went from US$85 per barrel up to $137 and back down to US$34; gold had a trip up to US$1000 / ounce and back down to US$700, so it seems to be following gold at first glance.

So maybe my $1.40 is only worth what $1 bought me in 2008 ... I don't like that inflation rate.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Brisbane Floods: a reason for the costs

Heard this morning that the Treasurer says that even though the levels of the flood in Brisbane did not reach that of 1974 the cost will be higher. This may seem strange at first glance but here is perhaps a significant explanation for that

The population of Brisbane has more than doubled since that time. Not only that, but the population has very much focused on development on and around the river.

Well after the floods died down in 74 (I think around the 80's) Brisbane started promoting the concept of "The River City" to "Celebrate" the river.

Now personally I think it was a move in a nice direction (in a last century kind of way) but it does come with some risk (as we've seen).

For the last 20 years or so I've given up saying "bet that'll flood" because everyone just says "oh don't be so negative it hasn't flooded here for ages".

I don't mind people being willing to accept the risks of flooding, but if you're playing with a thing and you don't know its a loaded gun thats a different story.

It isn't quite as simple as people are making out, much of the damage is caused by a combination of greed; disrespect for the losses of others and stupidity.

For example, this is Black Street in Milton (in behind the Suncorp Stadium), I used to work in that building with the red arrow and circle pointing it out.

Now recently the owners of the building decided to build in the "under building" ground level car park. Well when I worked in that building in the 80's it flooded a few times, but there was no damage because the building was raised and only the carpark flooded.

So now the businesses in that bottom story were flooded ... is this tragedy or giving a kid a grenade to play with?

I've heard this same story all over town.

So this is the main reason for why this disaster will cost so much to recover from, inappropriate development from the perspective of risk.

Business is built on risk, and while noone complains when the good times roll - don't whinge like a stuck piglet when the risk you took brings you a big cost.

It may only be once every many years, but ask yourself how often you are willing to take a risk which would kill your business?

Looking at the popularity of the tables at the Casino I guess its plenty of people...

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Architecture: Clueless in Brisbane

Ask any construction engineer and you'll find that most end up straining and struggling with Architects who seem to have great ideas but no clue on what actually works in the real world.

Perhaps nothing personifies this age old struggle more than this article in the Australian this morning, the first paragraph reads:
NO one has done more to promote Brisbane as the "River City" than award-winning architect Michael Rayner, so it was improbably cruel that his own home flooded when the river erupted.

Come on ... improbably cruel? How about entirely expectable.

If Michael Rayner did not expect river levels to rise in the area (one day) then he's either entirely incompetent as an architect or lives in a fools paradise. Hopefully its neither and its actually the Australian jurno's flipping out mush to stir up sentiment in the receptive public.

So after his house has been flooded (bet it was built on a slab to sit low and take in the river) what has he come up with to respond to his new found grasp of the POST FLOOD Queensland?

Its interesting that his "new design" looks rather like the old traditional design that has been popular here for around a century ... you know ... the classic Queenslander!?

Well looking at the 'concept drawings' it seems that he's got a design that enables him enough height to sit on the roof and wait for the SES to come and get him when we get another flood like the one in 1893.

Well unless I've got the wrong guy it seems like he's from Sydney. Assuming this is his bio. Seems he graduated in 1980 (well before the last decent flood in Brisbane) and came to Brisbane in 1990. Just in time for the long drought ... wait ... I'll bet he thought it'd never flood here again.

You know ... climate change, it won't flood anymore here.

I don't know what he was designing before but it seems thathe's been living here for twenty years before he figured out that our grandparents built along the right lines.

You know, one of the things which drives me spakko here in Queensland, is the clueless designs which we get here from the south (typically from the major "developers"). They make things according to a plan down there without any regard to what the world is like up here.

Australia may be one country but the north is quite unlike the south and the east unlike the west, not that its fashionable for an Architect to actually consider the environment when designing a house.

Well Michale I'm really sorry you got washed out living on the edge of a river which has a long long history of flooding. But like all disasters I hope that you've come to grasp this place a little better. Looking at your new design it seems that this may have happened.

Oh ... one more thing ... go look at this history of the development of Somerset Dam, you'll find that it was intended at flood mitigation too. I am quite sure there were wankers back then spruiking on about it being a wonder which will flood proof Brisbane.

Well people should learn to discuss facts rather than discuss fancy. The capacity of Somerset dam is something like 0.38 Gigalitres and the capacity while the capacity of Wivenhoe dame is something like 2.64 Gigalitres. You don't need a degree in maths to work out that compared to Wivenhoe, Somerset is a puddle.

Somerset didn't save Brisbane in the 1974 floods and Wivenhoe didn't save us in these floods. So the message is pretty clear.

The River City needs to celebrate and build upon the beauty of our river, but unless you don't mind loosing everything, keep a respectful distance.

But this is perhaps the point ... the modern world seems to have no respect for nature, only a fantasy that we can dominate it.

Still, if you choose to live in an which floods (and will always flood no matter what the sales people say) then this design seems like it will help you to minimise your losses. You'll get wiped out by only the more extreme ones.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Photomatix 4 - tonemapping and RAW conversion

I normally take pictures with the camera set to capture RAW and embed a mid sized JPG into the RAW file. I like doing things this way as I get to quickly suck out the JPG using dcraw (god I love that tool) or process the RAW file should needs be.

As it happens I have quite come to like Photomatix as my processing tool for my RAW files.
A classic tool for stuff like HDRI and even tone mapping.

Back in 2009 I wrote a blog post on how to use tonemapping to try to make the best from problematic images (I recommend you have a quick flash over there and have a gander at that post). The other weekend I was out and we stumbled across a young Kookaburra who was just on his first flight. Being a bit stupid he let me get close to him while making worried sounds and I was able to take this shot with my FD 300 f4 lens mounted on my G1 Panasonic.


It was OK, but the exposure was a little dark for my liking. It was under shade and backlit but I didn't really compensate enough to get the best results. So I plonked the RAW into Photomatix and got a much better result ....

young Kookaburra

Like the old ad used to say "try that with a cheaper foil". I genuinely don't think that this is even possible to do with Photoshop curves and layers with doge and burn and all manner of tricks.

Instead of laboring for hours I spent some 5 minutes with it on Photomatix. Compared to the previous version the new version is even easier to drive and supports my G1 files directly.

The first step was to just pick "reduce noise" and not pick "reduce chromatic aberrations". I think noise reduction is helpful and since its a legacy lens the software will have totally zero idea as to which lens it needs to correct for ... not that the FD needs much CA work.

I also make sure to pick a white balance which most closely represents the shooting situation ... after all its RAW so you can do that again no matter how you shot it.

Next it opens as a proper image in 16 bits in Photomatix and I can make some quick choices to alter it

I have found that I like either the enhancer smooth or enhancer default (not being into the garish) and then just wind a little onto the strength and saturation to suite my tastes (nothing severe). Click process and voilla ... get a 16 bit TIFF or JPG if you prefer. Don't get too anal about the colour as Photomatix is not able (as far as I know) to work with managed colour and calibrated displays, so just get the look more or less right and process.

too easy

I recommend you load those two images in different tabs so you can switch between them and see the difference.

This image (taken with my 10D in India some years back) is a good example of what better software can make of a RAW file, which does not clip the whites and (by dint of being RAW) preserves the entire capture of data including the shadows. Note the better shadow details while maintaining the highlights

This is exactly what good software should do, to properly tonemap the RAW capture (often 12 bits) into the 8 bit space of the JPG ... the HDR mode on the Oppo is doing an acceptable job of this, but needs (it seems) two exposures to do it, while the standard software algorithm in the camera is not doing that very well at all.
See how you go.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

storm fronts

A typical western mountain range storm was on the brew this afternoon.

I thought I'd go out and snap a pano of it as it started to form up some hundred or so Km to the south west ...

2 hours later its on our doorstep ... and extending past us to the north west

Monday, 17 January 2011

humidity and mold

By and large people in Europe (and many parts of the USA) have totally no knowledge of how humidity and mold effects life in tropical and sub tropical areas. Of course for these people probably won't benefit much from this article but the point is that the views and understandings of things in the world is often shaped by these peoples.

Queensland is an excellent example of why this is a problem. Here we have a population that acts and thinks as if its in Central Europe when it comes to many (if not most) things.

Humidity is the cause of mold (or mould for the GB spelling), you can't blame the spoors because they're everywhere anywhere.

So if you're trying to store or keep in good condition:
  • paintings
  • stamps
  • prints
  • camera equipment
  • lenses and optical equipment
  • down products
then you need to think about the humidity you store things in or you just have to accept that mold is going to get to it and destroy it sooner or later.

Mold spores start to grow when the humidity goes over 60% and love it when it goes over 70% ... the more the happier it is in growing. You need to go below 40% to kill it. Beware that I extended storage at below 50% can begin to damage papers and oil based paint dyes (as well as oils in lubrication of camera parts which is my main concern).

I can not recall my source of information on this, but other sources such as this one support my thoughts.


  • Keep the humidity level in your home between 40% and 60%. Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months and in damp spaces, like basements.

In this part of the world in summer we seldom get that low. For example if you look at the BOM site for the Brisbane humidity: The graphs below come from this site earlier today.

If you look at the Humidity graph you'll see it goes up and down daily:

Perhaps you'll notice from the times (on the X axis) you'll that its at the driest time after lunch till nightfall. Actually it drops all day from dawn, especially on sunny days (like today was).

There is a relationship between the significance of relative humidity and temperature .. the actual amounts of water in the air do not suddenly change (this is why its relative humidity not absolute humidity).

So as the temperature of the air drops the amount of water which the air can hold reduces. This means that its closer to falling out of the air and becoming moisture.

Paper (as well as dust collected on surfaces and wood) is a sponge for this sucking it up this now more available moisture. The way to see when things are likely to get dry and when they'll stay moist and damp can be seen when comparing the dew point (the point where water falls out of the air and starts forming on things) to the temperature. The closer the ambient temperature is to the dew point the the more things will start to feel 'damp'.

You can see that as the temperature drops during the day that the dew point becomes closer in this graph: Temperature and Dew Point

I've marked the worst point and the best point (for keeping things dry and mold free), its the wors time because the dew point is just 2 degrees C away from the ambient temperature. So the slightest cooling will start condensation forming.

Unlike forming on a gold glass (if you live here you know what I mean) this is subtle, less obvious and not pooling on the table.

Today the dew point is around 18 degrees C, while the ambient temp is 26 ... great for drying things outside (as your gut feeling would tell you anyway).

Now we overlay the graphs upon each other we'll see that when the relative humidity (the blue line) is at its lowest which was (about 50%) we were at the point where the ambient air temp was higher.

This is important because we try to keep our homes and rooms cooler ... note that the dew point has actually gone up a little ... so this means that if your stuff is kept in a cool place it will become more damp than the warmer sunny places. There are no cool dry places in our environment.

How do you deal with this?

People can delude themselves to the worth of desiccants like Silica Gel but the only real way to deal with this is to use a dehumidifier system or an Air Conditioner.

Why won't desiccants work? Well for instance in my cabinet for my lenses (which is about 1000mm x 400mm x 400mm I'll pull 500ml of water out on a humid day. Yes that's right half a liter out of a sealed cabinet.

I built a lens cabinet incorporating a dehumidifier for just my camera gear, but if you have more stuff I suggest putting it into a room that has a small window mounted AC unit. In fact this works out better in some ways as the benefit you'll get increases as the scale increases. The old "surface area to volume ratio" comes in to effect working in your favor.

If you operate and AC or a dehumidifier it will consume energy. If you're interested in tuning the system so its not consuming energy (money) then your going to get your best effect turning it on just on dusk as the ambient air temperature starts to drop.

You will suck out more of the moisture as the air temperature starts to cool with the least energy because its getting closer to the dew point and the AC will not need to drop its metal surfaces (where the moisture forms) in temperature so far.

Remember AC and dehumidification requires energy ... the more you need to cool (or heat) something the more energy needed ... energy costs money. I use a simple device which has no fancy remote control system because I can plug it in via a clockwork timer and then forget about it.

Hope that helps

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Logan Golf Course

Well ... slacks creek is in flood now (who's surprised?)

Slacks Creek in flood

and it runs along the side of the golf course behind the Uni ...


someone keen was checking out the greens ...


while others were checking out the water traps

relying on short memories

Found this in the paper this morning.
A SECRET report by scientific and engineering experts warned of significantly greater risks of vast destruction from Brisbane River flooding - and raised grave concerns with the Queensland government and the city's council a decade ago.

But the recommendations in the report for radical changes in planning strategy, emergency plans and transparency about the true flood levels for Brisbane were rejected and the report was covered up.

The comprehensive 1999 Brisbane River Flood Study made alarming findings about predicted devastation to tens of thousands of flood-prone properties, which were given the green light for residential development since the 1974 flood. The engineers and hydrologists involved in the study warned that the next major flood in Brisbane would be between 1m and 2m higher than anticipated by the Brisbane town plan.

but as a QUT Professor said on the ABC this morning, property values in flooded areas will plummet in the next year or so. However as time goes by people will forget the grief and losses and go in and pick up "a bargain".


well I guess I should just join in with the rest of the hive and go on about how its the worst I've ever seen and how noone could have predicted this. Who needs planning and who ever learns from the past anyway?

I think we may have got off lightly in some ways. I read this comment on a blog today:

"As mentioned earlier the proposed Wivenhoe Dam is a multi-purpose water supply-flood mitigation project, and the Bureau has provided extreme precipitation estimates and other data to assist in its design" (BOM Report 1974 p15).

Also, "four floods well in excess of the 1974 levels have occurred in the past 133 years" (p14).

"Meteorological studies suggest that rainfalls well in excess of those recorded in the floods of 1893 and 1974 are possible"(15).

It's also possible we could get multiple floods as on p13 the 1974 BOM Report says "[t]hree floods occurred during February 1893.

During the first (peak 9.51 m) the ship Elamang and the gunboat Paluma were carried into and left aground in the Brisbane Botanical Gardens, and the ship Natone was stranded on the Eagle Farm flats. The Indooroopilly railway bridge and the north end of the old Victoria Bridge were washed away.

Nine days later a second minor flood was experienced which attained a height of only 3.29 m.

However, a week after that there was another major flood (peak 9.24 m) which carried the stranded Elamang, Paluma and Natone back into the Brisbane River!

with all the discussion of how climate change is causing "wild weather" we have not seen anything likethat.

benefits of a disaster

Just listening to the ABC radio and the announcer was speaking from the flood evacuation center and she had some interesting observations.

She said that it seemed that despite the circumstances that a modern generation who had never known anything other than convenience were seeing past possessions, past politics to the community spirit that they were experiencing. They were seeing the people helping people (helping them) and that really everything was going to be all right.

wow ...

You know, that's about the best thing I've heard for years.

So if we can keep this sence of community, this knowledge that the real social networking is people talking to people then perhaps it has been worth it.

my best wishes for all those who have lost everything in the floods. I hope you get back on your feet again fast.


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

the Big Wet continues: Toowoomba gets flogged

And the people of Toowoomba cop a flogging it seems. The whole thing is dreadful, and its moving down the Lockyer and hitting Brisbane. So while the residents of Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley are picking up the pieces those of Brisbane are preparing for their turn.

Right now the engineers in SEQ Water will be making their best possible moves on preparing Lake Wivenhoe to receive as much flood water as it can while trying to protect those down stream from them as much as they can.

It will be a balancing act; made harder by the fact that capacity of Wivenhoe leading up to this has been held high. Not so long ago people were screaming to have more water in their dams and to keep it full. However its real design criteria was as a flood mitigation device rather than a water storage device.

Anyway, back in October I blogged about the big wet and back then I wrote; it does raise a more significant question:
what happens if we get the sort of rain we're having now in the strengths we've had in our peak wet seasons?

Well folks I think that the answer to that is "stock up on sand bags if you live in a low lying area" and "don't drive your car across flooded roads".

Well it seems we did get a continuation into December and now January.

Yesterday and into last night Toowoomba had rainfall which led to flash flooding ... major stuff as this fella captured on camera.

all one can say to that is "holy shit batman"

Toowoomba is on top of a range and at an elevation of between 600 and 700 meters above sea level, so (reasonably enough) it would appear to be the least likely area to cop a flood. Having lived in this area most of my life (or around 40 years) as well as traveled both intensively (doing delivery driving) and extensively I'm reasonably familiar with the area and have covered a few seasons of what happens here.

So naturally I was interested in just where this area is ... a bit of google searching (god bless them) and I am quite sure that it was here at west creek:

Moving onto that bridge there you can see that this is a drain channel ...

So its hardly surprising to see a torrent of water raging down it. The design and shape of it can only mean that the town planners expected to get some amount of water through here ... I'm betting however they didn't expect that much ... or they'd have dug it deeper. Its at the end of Herries St.

Data from the BOM indicates that it got quite substantial rainfall in the previous two days is pretty heavy, especially for them.

From the BOM site:


So on top of the background of drizzle since October they've had 206mm of rain in the last two days; delivered in 83mm first to prime the area then 123mm to just run off. As it happens (to make it perfect for flash flooding) they had most of their 123mm between 1:00pm and 2:00pm where nearly 70mm fell in one hour.

To put this into perspective, the rainfall stats for Toowoomba since 1887 are below. Its worth mentioning that few places in Australia have such extensive records as Toowoomba.


As you can see that's about the "normal" rainfall for Toowoomba to get in all of January. Looking at the stats however it seems that the highest ever (for January) is still some amount away at 520mm. Something which stands out here (to me) is that the highest record for February is still much higher at 736mm ... oh my god ... seven hundred and thirty six millimeters.

So, can it get worse ... well it sure looks that way to me.

More interesting in the data is that the highest record was 1893, with 1974 being the peak for January the peak rainfall was not even in that year. I don't know the details for that month, perhaps it was averaged better ... perhaps it was 24mm every day for the month, but perhaps they had some days with much more than 12omm of rain in there.

In the past I've certainly seen stuff flood in Toowoomba myself ... and it seems that as recently as the 16th of December some flooding occurred there too.

which is in itself a little bit of a mystery ... as BOM records show very little rain at the Toowoomba station for the 16th ... perhaps it was the result of localized intense showers?? shrug

So what is my point here?

Well my point is two fold:
  1. while not common this sort of rainfall has precedent, in fact much worse rainfall would appear to be on record.
  2. failure to adequately anticipate and plan for this has made it worse
Lets go back to that drain again ... its marked at A on the diagram below. Now while Toowoomba is perched atop a ridge (at around 600 meters above sea level) and is mostly flat, it does have topography. In fact it is almost divided around a gully that runs down the middle of it


... so the water starts up there near Kearneys Spring and has an almost straight unimpeded run down a funnel channel (I've marked in red) right to where the first video shows the wild flooding.

No wonder it was raging there ...

Making it worse you can see another drainage area there to the left off to where Darling Heights is. Now, lets look at the aerial photography..


Its amazingly solidly built up there in the middle isn't it. Something you may not know about is a concept in urban water planning called "the hardening of the urban surface". For example from this source:

In the future, most new developments will be built at densities higher than have occurred in the past. This will imply a greater concentration of terraced properties and flats. There will inevitably be a “hardening” of the urban landscape, potentially 70 dwellings per hectare, and hence a greater need to control run-off from rainfall events and the attendant increasing localized risk of flooding.

Essentially nearly 90% of water runs off urban areas and straight into storm water drains. Nearly none is soaked up in the ground and our concrete drainage systems increase the velocity with which it runs off (as you can see in the video) ... in fact if you take a toddle over to Wikipedia you can learn more about Urban Runoff here and perhaps apply that to your area.

So its not new stuff

Now, back in 1975 the population of Toowoomba was a mere 60,000 or so; while today it has grown to over double that. I'm sure back in Feb of 1983 there were far fewer living there, and in all probability those people would never have approved building where that big mass. Heck they'd probably shake their heads and call you "fool" for doing it.

So without a degree in Urban planning it seems as if the previous years of drought added to the notion that "everything is OK" and the ship is sailing fine.

Well looking around it doesn't seem to be to me.

So, what about the Future?

Well its hard to predict, but looking at the stats, the La Nina we are in and the weather satellite it would seem that we're in for more.

I've arranged the historical data (normally Jan to Dec) into a layout where the December of one year flows naturally into the January of the next (as it does naturally). This is the data from 1887 to the present ... so its quite a clump


Its a bit of a mess in there but its pretty clear Dec, Jan and Feb are stand out months for high rainfall.

We've been breaking records so far ... perhaps we'll break some more? who knows

What I do know is we need to get away from the media hysterical view of this and start taking an analytical view. I'm sure planners already do, but increasingly the general public is making heavy demands on politcal parties to steer things the way they want them.

The public seems to be increasingly mis-trustful of "the experts", so as far as I can see the only way to go forward and avoid disaster and loss of life is to get the same people who are vocal about telling "we need more [insert dams | highways | cheaper houses]" to actually grasp what it may be they actually need and what it will cost.

I'm willing to bet its not more of the same "business as usual" in terms of development, land approvals and infrastructure.

stay safe, and don't cross flooded roads ... please

The next day I came across this article in the Australian, written by a Toowoomba based journalist. Some of the comments are well worth reading. Some show education and insight while others show the same follow the leader head in the sand stuff which assists propaganda and stupidity to reign strong:

  • Rhys Posted at 1:04 AM January 12, 2011

    While this doesnt help the residents of flooded areas right this second, I can only hope that as a result of this that the QLD Govt will review its planning - and I am afraid that this would really need to start NOW. How hard this could be, if achievable at all, is mind bending. But the fact remains that this lesson should be learnt now, not in another 40 years. I have lost 2 friends already, and I dont think its fair to risk anymore. My thoughts are with all QLDers, and please know Australia's thoughts are with you too. In true form, we will be here when you need us.

    Comment 1 of 48

  • Phil of Brisbane Posted at 1:12 AM January 12, 2011

    Heather. Who exactly are you saying is at fault here? Until this unbelievable freak of nature is explained, I dont think that anyone can be blamed. Leave it alone, for now. We have to hook in and get through the physical and mental repair work that is by far the most important issue at the moment. I do catch your drift, but lets wait.

    Comment 2 of 48

  • Aaron Martin of Gold Coast Posted at 2:06 AM January 12, 2011

    Heather, your experience as a journalist is very clear here. Your message is spot on and well written. Why does it take a natural disaster of this magnitude to get people to listen?

    Comment 3 of 48

  • Jenny Stirling Posted at 2:32 AM January 12, 2011

    Heather you are exactly right and up and down the coast of Queensland the same tragedy has been repeated. Councils are building on flood plains from Cairns to Brisbane. Here in Townsville we have an accident waiting to happen with the Bohle Pains housing development. Sure they have installed wide drains that lead to the sea but these fill with rubbish and are not maintained and cleaned. We have to learn to live with this country and not against it. And engineered solutions are not always the way to go because they rely too heavily on the agendas of those who are building the 'solutions'- as the engineer in Toowoomba testifies.

    Comment 4 of 48

  • David W of North Carolina, Us ex Sydney, NSW Posted at 3:23 AM January 12, 2011

    Heather should write a book. The prose is very moving, what a great gift you have, something to touch the heart of our nation and our dreams and follies. We can afford to learn again.

    Comment 5 of 48

  • Tim Posted at 3:29 AM January 12, 2011

    It's a similar story with most new housing developments - all of them low houses built on slabs. They will be indundated to the roofline, while many Queenslander houses will survive with water below the floorboards. But the designs originate from down south and are aimed at mass production.

    Comment 6 of 48

  • PaxUs of Brisbane Posted at 3:48 AM January 12, 2011

    It isn't just Toowoomba Council that's to blame, it's the same story across board. No knowledge! No experience! Our historical culture and traditions, that embed in song, story and custom, lessons on how to survive, in this land of rugged, random hardship, have been all but decimated. Try reading the lyric to our National Anthem. The 'empty temples' of self worship & greed, between our 'leaders and planners' ears, no longer contain the sacred bible of knowledge, that is our historical heritage. They have forgotten that Australia is the land of the wild and untamed. Live here at your own peril. Drilling huge holes all over the State, filled with toxic chemicals, and their present 'mingling of waters', into our underground water and river systems, is another bonus, courtesy of our Corporate Government. 'We' didn't ignore anything, our Governments, Councils, Media, Economists, Developers, Mining Corporations and their Advisers did.

    Comment 7 of 48

  • Martin of WA Posted at 4:27 AM January 12, 2011

    This is pessimistic. If you build cities and towns on flood plains you will experience flood. Pray for the dead. These great cities and towns will rebuild themselves.

    Comment 8 of 48

  • janama Posted at 5:33 AM January 12, 2011

    Thank you Heather for not mentioning climate change :)

    Comment 9 of 48

  • Sad. of Toongabbie Posted at 5:39 AM January 12, 2011

    Congratulations Heather. Your article made more sense than any other I have read on this disaster. You struck straight to the bone, peeling off all the meat that others have laboured to write about. Possible 30 million has been spent on a little creek near where I live. I hope the planners have got it right.

    Comment 10 of 48

  • S of NT of Darwin Posted at 5:46 AM January 12, 2011

    well said..

    Comment 11 of 48

  • Rosemary of Queensland Posted at 6:09 AM January 12, 2011

    I am a Queenslander born and bred and like many others of my generation, experienced the '74 floods. I've seen many new houses built on land that should never been built on, including low-set houses flat on concrete slabs. Queensland houses were built high on stumps for good reasons - for airflow, for catching cooling breezes, and to help mitigate flood damage. Of course if the flood is epic, then even these will eventually go under, but at least you have a fighting chance the rest of the time. Hard lessons should be learnt from this event - of building more dams, of looking for ways to build and relocate roads, rail and bridges so that during an old fashioned wet-season transport doesn't grind to a halt - and of stricter building codes in areas that are known for flooding, or are near creeks and rivers. Above all, lessons should be learnt by Governments at all levels - about the priority of where taxpayer money should be spent. Not on vague, popularist thought bubbles like the NBN or ceiling insulation, but on hard, prosaic, pragmatic infrastructure that might not win votes, but would help Australia survive the more extremes of this drought and flooding-rains country of ours.

    Comment 12 of 48

  • John Good Posted at 6:25 AM January 12, 2011

    Yes Yes Yes !! We are surrounded by fools who won't listen because "they went to university and are fully qualified", it is the same with the bushfire debate and fuel reduction. Those that know and have seen the awesome force of nature live with the fact every day that at some point what they have warned people about will come true and sadly so many times it does.

    Comment 13 of 48

  • phill Parsons of bilgola Posted at 6:29 AM January 12, 2011

    Expecting urban planning lessons to be learnt and implemented between rare events to take into account those events is a big ask. However, an event like this one should get a lesson learnt until the community forgets, which it usually does. Canberra apparently learnt as did the Victoria. I hope Queensland will follow suit as much as it can given the huge cost of rebuilding will inhibit replacemnt of inadequate infrastructure, if there is an adequate system for such an event. My sympathies to the victimns.

    Comment 14 of 48

  • Mike McMullen Posted at 6:50 AM January 12, 2011

    I hope the Engineer mentioned has the luxury of feeling vindicated despite being pushed out of his job as a result of his commitment to standards as opposed to guilt about death and destruction as a result of backing down from them. I do not envy him in either case.

    Comment 15 of 48

  • King O'Malley of Castle Cove Posted at 6:50 AM January 12, 2011

    The day when we put architects, consultants and town planners whims ahead of the advice of engineers and hydrologists is akin to putting children in charge of the playground. Like global warming hysteria, we need to grow up, apply some common sense and put the adults back in charge again.

    Comment 16 of 48

  • NevilleW Posted at 6:51 AM January 12, 2011

    Thank you Heather, sitting down here in a safe high ground in Victoria, I wondered how the torrent of water could be unexpected and so catching people unawares when the water from the north had to go somewhere, you may have put a piece of the puzzle in place for me.

    Comment 17 of 48

  • Jimboh of NTH Qld Posted at 7:14 AM January 12, 2011

    Onya Heather, The mind boggles sometimes when the so called expert professionals don't listen, when all it takes sometimes is to listen to the ordinary people who occasionally come up with good idea's. I wonder if the Pollies would take this on board

    Comment 18 of 48

  • Wal of Winton Posted at 7:18 AM January 12, 2011

    OK, Heather, you were smart. I spent seven years at boarding school in Toowoomba in the fifties (very wet years you may remember) and there was nothing of the magnitude of this. Those two little creeks that run through the centre of Toowoomba seldom had enough water in them to wet your socks. The message really is that you cannot plan for extreme weather events and that cities and heavy rain don't mix.

    Comment 19 of 48

  • Markus of New Farm Posted at 7:21 AM January 12, 2011

    How would larger pipes have helped mitigate the disaster we saw in Toowoomba?Why don't we wiat for the considererd expert findings post this disaster instead of airing the opinions of a journalist during this time of sorrow for so many people.

    Comment 20 of 48

  • Stephen Morgan of Runcorn Posted at 7:25 AM January 12, 2011

    Exactly - and we did all this illogical building because we think we're above nature. The damage in Brisbane will be exacerbated because we thought that the dam would prevent 1974-style flooding...and we've built acordingly. Dams won't stop floods, that's clear. All they seem to do is stop people thinking about floods, which in some ways makes them more of a danger than a blessing. But let's not blame the dams nor praise them - they didn't make the decisions...we did!

    Comment 21 of 48

  • Judi of Adelaide Posted at 7:30 AM January 12, 2011

    And Toowoomba isn't the only place that has done that. I know Adelaide doesn't always get heavy downpours, but every time it does, I know I (& a lot of others) curse the planners who use small gutters & pipes & allow building on floodplains. I'm "lucky" in that I live on the gentle slope of a hill - not at the bottom where it floods, & not enough of a slope for there to be a real danger of things like mudlsides, but I watch the water build up at the bottom of the street & through nearby streets & see people's houses get inundated. And during summer I look at all those houses with no eaves or verandahs, with huge aircons running full blast 24/7 & wonder what idiot decided that the Australian landscape could do with European designed buildings around the place. Our town planners, designers, developers, etc need to start taking our landscape into account. As QLD is currently proving, beautiful one day doesn't necessarily mean safe & beautiful tomorrow. It's going to take a lot of work to clean QLD up, but unfortunately I don't think that means lessons will be learnt, by QLD or by anywhere else in Australia. My thoughts are with you all.

    Comment 22 of 48

  • jack Posted at 7:34 AM January 12, 2011

    Absolutely spot on.We are doing the same thing in the south. Building houses thatbear no relationship to the climate. No energy considerations and no demands from Councils or Governments that these be taken into consideration.As with Queensland, their wonderful architecture ignored. Lets hope this is altered now.

    Comment 23 of 48

  • Jack Horton of Cunnamulla Posted at 8:04 AM January 12, 2011

    Sad but true; all town-planners should have a framed copy of the poem 'My Country' to remind them of the sudden contrasts nature can inflict on 'the wide brown land' - likewise should the many farmers who may not have come to terms with the land they farm - likewise the coastal communities & occupants of riverside mansions - these moods of nature are not new to us; we frequently incur cyclones, droughts, bushfires & floods - we may not ever know all the answers but we can certainly improve; despite all this, the Qld Govt, the BCC, the ICC, the RCC, the police, SES, army, navy, Red Cross, Salvos & ordinary volunteers demonstrate great fortitude in the face of the current adversity - they are to be recognised & applauded and rewarded by better town-planning & engineering as an integral outcome of this unfolding disaster.

    Comment 24 of 48

  • lmwd of Qld Posted at 8:13 AM January 12, 2011

    Great article, along with the article looking at the history of Australian weather events. This is where we went wrong. By not understanding history, we are doomed for a repeat of disasters. Each event should be a learning Ă¢?? where to build and where not to and how to prepare for inevitable climate events. People seem to have this delusion that this event is something unprecedented, never happened before. Yes, this event may be the worst in our living memory, but the archives are full of information predicting such events. Take the BOM report written after the 74 flood. It compared that event to the 1893 flood, which saw peaks in Brisbane of over 9m and they warned that such a big event could happen again. It is why Wivenhoe Dam was built. If we want to know our future, we only need to look at our past, and that should be guiding our decisions. Instead our money and attention has been directed towards chasing hypothetical futures and this has left us ill-prepared for the return to the past.

    Comment 25 of 48

  • Gemini of brisbane Posted at 8:39 AM January 12, 2011

    dear heather,i enjoyed reading your article. a refreshing style, and you have a good gift of writing. i am an engineer and sadly agree with your summation. because of the green movement, they will not build any dams, and as for re-cycled water, they dare not ask the engineers; they asked the scientists for an opinion and answers, who are busting to try anything and who don't have to stare down the threat of litigation everyday.

    Comment 26 of 48

  • Brian of Longreach, Qld. Posted at 8:44 AM January 12, 2011

    I'm no engineering genius but I take note of all the old-timers when they criticise the works around the west proposed by city-based engineers and public servants.I've seen weirs washed away after they have been hit by the first fresh down the river, a highway which acted as a dam and flooded parts of the town that had never been flooded before.The old-timers said it would happen but the city experts said there would never be a problem.Thank you, Heather, for pointing it out.

    Comment 27 of 48

  • Dr B S Goh of Australian in Asia Posted at 8:46 AM January 12, 2011

    It is a poignant article. May the souls of all who lost their lives rest in peace. Let us as Australians do better in managing our cities.

    Comment 28 of 48

  • Ben of Sydney Posted at 8:51 AM January 12, 2011

    One again, "those who do not take heed to the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it's mistakes"...

    Comment 29 of 48

  • denniscav of U.S.A. Posted at 8:53 AM January 12, 2011

    A major lesson we should learn from this disaster in Australia, is that nature is still in charge, and it is we who must learn, and change our habits and behaviors, which include, modifying our arrogant attitudes aimed at, or resulting in, conquering or subduing natural forces.

    Comment 30 of 48

  • Stephen Jones of Byron Bay Posted at 8:56 AM January 12, 2011

    The arrogance of mankind plays out in scenes small and large as the world's weather systems assert their eminence simultaneously in Australia, Europe and the USA...

    Comment 31 of 48

  • Paul Curson Posted at 9:00 AM January 12, 2011

    And global warming means these occasional extreme events will get worse.

    Comment 32 of 48

  • Mark of Melbourne Posted at 9:22 AM January 12, 2011

    I would hope that after these problems that a detailed flood plain map is drawn up for all Australians, with clear labels such as DO NOT BUILD HERE / HIGH RISK / MEDIUM RISK It may be that river systems have to be given the flood plain respect and that many towns and cities are reshaped to suit. I would think that ANY insurance company would force these changes by not providing insurance or making it very expensive for properties rebuilt in these areas.

    Comment 33 of 48

  • Mark of Melbourne Posted at 9:23 AM January 12, 2011

    Personally I dont expect the Labor government to sort out these issues with land owners and developers and councils who provide building approvals and make up the rules. Perhaps councils who have given approvals to build in these areas should be held personally responsible and it might prevent some of the greed in the system. I hope that those affected will carry on in good heart but realise that the system needs radical change otherwise it will happen again and again. THe only time it is likely to change is directly after a tradegy when the politicains cannot avoid the issue as it is fresh and raw in eveyones mind. Pity Labor is technically in charge though as progress or lasting results are words I would use to describe that particular party, expect lots of words and gestures but no real action and then vote accordingly, as happened in Victoria recently.

    Comment 34 of 48

  • Milly Molly Posted at 9:27 AM January 12, 2011

    Best explanation of this terrible event in Toowoomba I have read so far.Had me puzzled as the water looked as if it came from a broken dam or catchment. However building recreation areas near the river with not enough drainage to allow the water to run off quickly would also have caused such a problem. Appreciate the article.Sadly I also think that Queensland's cycle of long years of drought broken by massive flooding events (which are documented from the 1890s onwards) seems to have been dismissed as unimportant in our planning for towns and water management. Just because there is a long time lapse between such events doesn't mean they won't happen again...they will.

    Comment 35 of 48

  • peter hindrup of bondi junction Posted at 9:36 AM January 12, 2011

    A thoughtful observation by person who absorbed the reality of the unrestrained and unrestrainable power of the elements. City born people do no know and cannot know the immensity of the event which from time to time we will be confronted and some who have had the chance to observe, choose to forget.People are comforted by the 'once in a hundred years' tag placed upon many natural events. We are being reminded that such tags are meaningless, meaningless and offer false comfort.With more extreme weather occurring more often being predicted the rational approach is to begin a reappraisal of past practices and to begin the changes needed to manage the new reality, but there is not a chance that it will happen.( I grew up in Gisborne, NZ, which flooded regularly before the massive flood mitigation works were carried out.)

    Comment 36 of 48

  • Jane in Brisbane of Brisbane Posted at 9:39 AM January 12, 2011

    Beautifully written - and very accurate.

    Comment 37 of 48

  • Manorina of Queensland Posted at 9:43 AM January 12, 2011

    The type of cloudburst event which occurred on Monday in Toowoomba is rare but when they hit urban areas they are particularly destructive.This is because all rain that falls on a hardened surface like roofs and roads runs off and overwhelms storm water drainage.Apart from removing existing habitations and preventing further building near drainage lines there is not much that can be done.It is inevitable that streets will become drainage lines in extreme scenarios.Given the past record of local,state and federal governments in allowing developer greed to hold sway I don't give much chance for even the prohibition of future flood plain development let alone a managed retreat from these areas.

    Comment 38 of 48

  • Andrew of Ipswich Posted at 9:54 AM January 12, 2011

    Heads should roll that good engineering advice has cost many lives and damaged so much property. Form should follow function. There is no point in having a pretty landscape if it can't deal with the reasonably predictable flood flows

    Comment 39 of 48

  • Sylvia M. Murray of Perth Posted at 2:49 PM January 12, 2011

    I wonder about the cutting down of forests in the history of "the flooding plains" of Dorothy McKeller. What has been established about flooding rivers prior to white settlement? Sylvia Murray

    Comment 40 of 48

  • Sunnysandgroper of WA Posted at 3:11 PM January 12, 2011

    Good luck over there.As with all things where good advice was overlooked for bad I hope that some of the votes received, promotions given and contracts awarded are closely scrutinised now. Perhaps redress by reversing the promotion for the planner promoting low height developments in low lying areas and giving a gee up to the hydrologist/engineer sitting in the back-office? Fat-chance, this is Australia in 2011, the dollar rules as do the ruling majorities. The rest of us can go suck eggs.

    Comment 41 of 48

  • Engineer in the maze Posted at 3:42 PM January 12, 2011

    Welcome to the world of 'Modern Engineering'....attempting to satisfy the beanies and somehow maintain engineering integrity. It gets worse when the rate/tax payers money is spent by politicians on 'community projects' this normally means vote buying or believing the results from a survey of 100 people. Somehow I do not think this game is going to change...imagine if your local councillers were not allowed to override an engineering judgement, engineering would then also become political.

    Comment 42 of 48

  • Cyclophile of Sunny Melbourne Posted at 3:48 PM January 12, 2011

    Excellent article, although it is yet to be established whether the 18-footers would have prevented, or mitigated, the disaster. But I do like the general thesis, that more regard should be had to environmental factors and to expert (in this case, engineering) advice, and less to the whims of developers and architects. Very much a Green perspective!

    Comment 43 of 48

  • skydrake3 of Toowoomba Posted at 3:51 PM January 12, 2011

    Very true! We came to live in Twmba 6 years ago, following a couple of visits to this pleasant town. When you drive out of Twmba to the West, North and South you mostly see tree denuded of trees, leaving only naked earth; in dry season covered by dead grass, now green. It is a smooth land, with no places for water to accumulate, stay and sink in. The Kearney springs are still within the city perimeter and I understand that only some 15 years ago there was still a spring, bringing out fresh water...Now all is levelled out, leaving a few shallow scenic ponds...but these are not meant as buffer to hold water and prevent flooding somewhere further down, and in fact the city smart hydro engineers have created smoothly betoned out: a real highways for the water to run through. The pleasant lunch-break basin between the library and Grand Central is shallow and fills fast with the deposited soil and it does not serve water in any way, only our -foolish- aesthetics. No wonder that the accelerated water has created major havoc particularly here and at the end of that concrete highway in Russell str. Not far from the railway stationĂ¢?¦The Eastern creek has been put into a straight jacket too...

    Comment 44 of 48

  • Rodger of Scarborough, Qld Posted at 3:54 PM January 12, 2011

    Heather's article is a well written and honest observation, so it seems from reading it, and I would agree, too much of our constructions in this country ignore the fact that this is Australia, I extend this to the whole of the nation as I have only minutes ago seen Flood pictures from another part of our country Photo's taken this morning, while the Floods down in Victoria are not to the scale we are seeing in here in Queensland, it does along with the Bush Fires in WA highlight the fact that this Country of ours is a Beautiful, Heartless and Deadly landscape, housing not only many of the most poisonous spiders and Snakes, but a harsh and unforgiving weather system, when will we learn that we cannot recreate European and Chinese architecture or make Modern Art designs out of towns, without placing ourselves and our children at great risk? we have the knowledge and technology to limit the damage of Australia harsh environment, we just refuse to use it

    Comment 45 of 48

  • Bec Posted at 3:55 PM January 12, 2011

    The paddocks surrounding my old highschool used to flood considerably every couple of years, as did the school grounds themselves - there are now 2 new, large satellite downs on those same grounds. How many of those people - whose houses will inevitably flood - knew of this? I would say none of them - unless they had local knowledge of the area. It's sad how money overtakes human safety.

    Comment 46 of 48

  • Bill Posted at 3:59 PM January 12, 2011

    A city which rejected re-cycled water; a city which rejected good engineering.Stick to good planning and good science.

    Comment 47 of 48

  • John W Jenks of Brisbane Posted at 4:04 PM January 12, 2011

    Very well written. It is a pity that these things happen which they do every 20 to 30 years and that may be the reasons we forget these things do happen. The really sad part is that although we may not know what the results would have been if these developments had not been done, developers do things to make money and often greed and dare I say coruption occurs to get the end results that also result in inocent people suffering. We build unsuitable buildings in flood prone and bushfire prone areas and we don't seem to learn by the dissasters that occur.

    Comment 48 of 48

Monday, 10 January 2011

Flood Relief for Queensland

Planning for a Rainy Day.

Seems so obvious that its a cliche, yet it seems that is beyond the capacity of the Australian Government to plan for. Hell bent on driving the economy forward when anything goes wrong we seem to have nothing in reserve.

At the moment its pissing down with rain still and Queensland is in the middle of one of those one in a hundred year events. What has made this event worse is most likely the fact that so much and so wide spread rain has fallen on inland catchments rather than just on the coastal strips (as is more normal).

Watching TV programs raising money for flood relieve of the victims of this even (which continues to unfold) a couple of things occur to me:

  • the General Public and Australian Business has donated over 20 million dollars to this while the Queensland State and Commonwealth Government have contributed 1 million each.

  • I have not heard a whisper of any help from overseas countries such as China, Saudi Arabia or any of the number of places where Australia has shown enormous generosity when they have disasters

Pakistan was flooded just recently in 2010 and Australians donated generously to assist them, the United Nations stepped in and organised some US$460 Million in aid for them.

Yet the areas of Queensland (and New South Wales) effected by the flooding at the moment here and now is significantly larger. I've heard figures of equivalent to the entire area of NSW, which is 800 thousand square kilometers.

This is more than the entire area of Pakistan and many times the area of Pakistans flooding. Yet we here in Australia just pull together and stand on our own two feet and don't expect help from outside.

I'm willing to bet we don't see much charity from wealthy nations like Saudi Arabia or the Arab Emirates. I'll go out on a limb here and say its because we're not an Islamic Nation.

Australia contributed something over $20 Million to the crisis in Pakistan, and while I am glad we could make a difference to so many, it makes me wonder about charity beginning at home a bit as I'm sure we could use more help than we're getting now.

Worse, it seems that "hard business" attitudes prevail and that India and China are now thinking they'll take there business elsewhere if we can't keep pumping out the coal due to our disaster. Hardly any charity there.

I think its sad that during the years of bounty the Government was doing its best to keep our budget in surplus (mainly under John Howard) while ignoring much infrastructure and capacity planning.

Wouldn't it be nice if we'd put "a little aside" each month for "just in case" ... we'd then easily have something like a billion dollars in a fund to cope with just such an emergency.

It would be nice if we could have a government which actually planned for such contingencies rather than prattling on with pandering to populist nonsense and electorally divisive issues.

Too much attention has been paid to politics and not enough to good governance.

Time for a change I reckon

PS ... just read this: the Federal Government's plans to give Indonesia $500 million over the next five years for educational development

Wouldn't that be better spent here in Queensland ... even if only from a raw financial analytical perspective if not from a humanitarian one?

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Queensland Floods: much of the damage is our own fault

I have been wanting to post something about this, but so far have kept my nose out because I didn't think anyone out there would get the point of what I'm trying to say.

However today I see that someone else has mentioned it publicly so at least I'm not out on my own here.

You see, I feel that the floods are no worse than what we've had in the past, and certainly nothing unexpected in terms of a 100 year event. However because we've been building in places we previously didn't and building places unsuited to the location we've now copped lot of damage.

I've been looking at the "flooding" here on the Gold Coast and felt that most of it was in areas which older locals would never have built in and in styles we didn't traditionally build in. Strangely its only recently (at the end of some decades of drought) that these areas have been "re-zoned" to be available for development.

Caution has taken a back seat to greed and the desire to move a population here.

I had been doing a little research on this and had come across an PhD by Allison Godber who identified that people buying into property
"do not understand the risks of flooding represented by the standards formally adopted by local government and as a result misinterpret their levels of flood risk exposure"

in lay speak this means people build in areas which may wipe them out when (not if) it floods.

She is not the only one suggesting this, as today I also found this:

Central Queensland University researcher John Rolfe said Emerald's decisive moment came in the early 1990s when the council made the decision to release land for subdivision along the flats beside the Nogoa River rather than on the high land near the airport to the east of the river.

"When you look at the aerial pictures from the floods, you'll see that Old Emerald is largely untouched; it's the new areas which have gone underwater" Rolfe said

"Back in the 1990s when mining was really taking off, most of the planning decisions were made at that stage to release the land along the river.

Its sort of funny, but quite tragic in reality that we fail to heed the opinions of those who have experience in the area and instead favor what ever advice fits with doing what we want to.

Queensland is one of the fastest growing states, which means we are getting thousands of people with no experience of the region move in and settle every month. This can only mean people without a clue about what its like here.

If you look around you see all the older houses look rather like this:

Another Queenslander house

unless they're built in areas which are on tops of hills ... but even then they are often still on shorter posts.

The reason for this should be clear to people now, but just in case it isn't here is why:

So while it may be annoying to have a meter of water under your house...

Its much better than having a meter of water through your house.

Even in the devastating 1974 floods heaps of people were spared having their houses and property ruined by simply building according to the conditions.

I'm at a loss why we seem to forget this, but I can only put it down to people being ignorant, developers being too greedy, and fashion dictating how we build our homes.

I've been reading how cockamamie ideas are circulating about now "flood proofing" Queensland.

For gods sake, when will we learn that for every action there is a reaction, we can't "tame nature" and we do well to learn to live within its means.

Many towns are build around farming and many farming areas are built around fertile soil and water. Unsurprisingly these are often in areas called "flood plains" (just in case you don't remember your Grade 10 geography classes). For these ecosystems (and ones modified into productive farmlands) soil fertility is benefited by flooding. Rather like this:

Our grandparents seemed to understand this and work with it, so perhaps its time to get a little sence back into our system again??

Friday, 7 January 2011

Bluetongue under the back steps

Saw a nose poking from underneath our stairs today.


Monday, 3 January 2011

New Year trip

We went down to visit family over the new year (and check out some camping areas). We had intended to go camping, but the flooding and rains put us off a little

We dropped in to Ebor Falls on the way through as its a personal favourite of mine. Its always hard to get good shots of the area due to the contrasty nature of Australian scenery. I didn't have 35mm neg on hand so I had a go at HDRI's hand held and tested out the new changes in Photomatix 4 for processing.


I also liked this image looking back up the valley more or less into the sun.


While we were back in the carpark my wife noticed a "funny Kookaburra" up in the tree. It seemed to me to be a young one recently out of the nest. The G1 with the FD300 does quite a good job of birds.

young Kookaburra

Tail feathers weren't well formed and he had a stumpy beak still. Again I used Photomatix 4 to process and convert this RAW image into a nicely tonemapped rendering. Does quite a good job

We had a great time and there was some wonderful scenery in the New England area (while Queensland suffers under the floods)