Destination news: Brisbane cleans up after its flood


(eTN) – A citizen volunteer “army” of over 55,000 people have spent the weekend assisting residents affected by last week’s inundation of over 25,000 homes and businesses in Brisbane and the nearby city of Ipswich in an inspirational and largely spontaneous display of community spirit. Some of these volunteers were Australian and international visitors who flew to Brisbane for the sole reason of extending support to the people of Brisbane and other flood-affected towns in Queensland. Queensland State, and local government officials, emergency service organizations and charitable organizations were overwhelmed with the response of people who wanted to help in the task of cleaning up after the deluge. From the outset of the flood crisis, Tourism Queensland in association with some local tour operators initiated a range of volunteer tourism programs with the aim of assisting flood victims in the state.

In a small “good news story,” eTurboNews readers may recall in my article, Queensland Floods Reach Apocalyptic Levels, I referred to the Royal on the Park Hotel in Brisbane, which had a marker indicating the level of inundation during Brisbane’s last great flood of 1974. Despite concerns that the floods of 2011 would exceed the levels of 1974, I am pleased to report that this did not happen. While flood waters lapped to within a meter of the hotel’s entrance, the hotel remained dry throughout the flood crisis. The Wivenhoe Dam, about 50 kilometers west of Brisbane, which was completed in 1983 (in part as a flood mitigation project after the 1974 floods), actually saved Brisbane from a level of flooding, which would have been far worse than the severe level it experienced last week.

Although flood waters are receding in Brisbane, the threat of floods to other parts of SE Queensland continues, especially the town of Condamine, which faces its second threat of inundation in the space of two weeks. Flooding remains a continuing threat in Northern New South Wales, Western Victoria, northeast Tasmania, and the eastern regions of South Australia. The popular Murray River tourist town of Echuca, which is just on the Victorian side of the Australia’s the Murray River (Australia’s longest river much of which forms the border of Victoria and New South Wales), is experiencing record flood levels, and many homes and businesses are threatened with inundation.

The threats posed by the floods, meteorologist have referred to as the La Nina floods, are not confined to Australia. While Australia mourned 17 confirmed deaths from the Queensland floods, Sri Lanka had mourned 36 deaths from floods in that country, and Brazil mourned an estimated 500 people who died as a result of mudslides on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro. Every life is precious, irrespective of nationality, and as the disaster in Rio proved, a flood does not have to inundate vast areas of land to cause massive destruction and loss of life.

In Queensland, the tourism industry has played an important role in assisting flood victims, donating money to appeals, and in helping to get tourism-related businesses back on their feet. Some hotels have provided temporary accommodation and meals for displaced flood victims. Some tour operators have developed programs which facilitate volunteers from all over Australia and internationally to assist in the cleanup efforts.

Appropriately, this article concludes another good news story about an initiative from a Queensland-based tourism training consultant. Adrian Caruso, who is the CEO of TA Fastrack in Brisbane, came up with an initiative to help Queensland tourism and tourism-related businesses recover expeditiously from the flood crisis by producing a simple 10-page tourism business recovery guide designed for tourism and hospitality businesses. It provides a simple 10-step guide to help them get their businesses back on their feet. Adrian has distributed the guide free of charge via email to over 3,000 tourism businesses in Queensland. This author helped Adrian with the raw material for the guide, but the initiative was his and it’s a maxim in good recovery management – that timely response to a crisis, is a critical importance.

David Beirman is a Senior Lecturer in tourism at the University of Technology-Sydney.