Townsville’s 2019 floods – consequences in daily life

This post extends my April post, Townsville’s 2019 floods, by mentioning some consequences, both temporary and ongoing, of the flood damage.

Accelerated decisions
  • Old people flooded out of their homes may not return but find retirement accommodation, a move they may have been resisting for years.
  • All sorts of people will be replacing furniture they were already planning to replace because it was looking shabby.
  • Both of the main performing arts spaces, Civic Theatre and Riverway, were flood damaged and had to be closed for repairs, forcing the cancellation of events scheduled well into the middle of the year. Civic Theatre, I know, is re-opening for the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in July – but then re-closing to finish repairs.
  • Sports grounds were also flood damaged, forcing the cancellation of events up to national-festival level.
  • The Alice River bridge on Hervey’s Range Road was severely damaged and needs to be rebuilt. Rumour (which is all I have) has it that the road won’t re-open until late this year. Until it does, Hervey’s Range residents can only get into town via Black River Road and the Highway, an extra 10 Km each way.

Delayed decisions
  • Planning on selling your house or business, but it was flooded? It will probably be months before it can go on the market.
  • Need a tradie for routine maintenance? They are all still busy with flood repairs.
Green waste

Cyclones generate a huge amount of green waste at both household and municipal levels. The floods created far less of it, but still enough to be a problem. Townsville City Council always allows free dumping of green waste at its tip sites but after the floods there was an addition to the gatehouse routine: I was asked, “Is this from the floods or it is regular household green waste?”

“What difference does it make?” I wanted to know.

“Well, the city council covers the cost if it’s from your ordinary clean-up, but the state government is paying the bill for flood recovery.”

Hard rubbish

A large area of the Lou Litster Park between Ross Creek and Officeworks became a temporary green waste dump after cyclone Yasi in February 2011. The same area was fenced off after these floods as a temporary dump for hard rubbish – household goods, construction materials, etc. It was also guarded, for a time, because a lot of perfectly good things were written off by the insurance companies and then had to be dumped.

The prime example of this kind of wastage discussed by friends was the entire stock of the big green hardware store in Idalia, flooded to a depth of two metres and dumped: thousands of dollars worth of hand tools, garden furniture, paint, plumbing fittings, etc, would have been as good as new after a wash, even if power tools and light fittings had to be condemned as unsafe.

The other kind of wastage which struck me as I drove around Hermit Park and other badly affected suburbs was that so much of our furniture is appallingly badly constructed in terms of resisting water damage. Look at any furnishings catalogue and there are pages and pages of cabinets, desks, beds, etc, made of melamine over MDF (fibreboard) or chipboard. As soon as it gets wet, it expands and collapses into mush, and is totally irreparable.

And all the soft furnishings – couches and lounge chairs, “luxury” bed-heads, etc – are upholstered directly over stapled-together wooden (or, again, fibreboard) frames. Any moisture on them soaks straight in and stays there, a perfect home for mould and mildew while the staples rust and let the substructure fall apart. Again, it is totally irreparable.

What are the sustainable alternatives? Solid wood or cane construction, and removable cushions; or glass, plastic and steel.


Reef HQ aquarium had to add 26 tonnes of salt to the Coral Reef Exhibit tank to stop the fresh rain water from killing all the coral.

Landcare reckons that half the trees planted along Goondaloo Creek in recent revegetation projects were washed away and now have to be replaced. There was also significant damage to other reclamation sites – erosion, rubbish accumulation, etc – and Landcare has set up an appeal to raise funds to repair the damage.

Ross River bank
The bank of Ross River (Mundingburra side, just below Aplin’s Weir) showing new stonework repairing flood erosion


20 thoughts on “Townsville’s 2019 floods – consequences in daily life”

  1. 28 Jul 2019, 07:00 pm – 08:00 pm
    Townsville City Council is collaborating with the Queensland Music Festival (QMF) to bring Glen Shorrock and the Help is on its Way Project to the North Australian Festival of Arts (NAFA). The Help is on its Way Project has been developed by QMF to encourage conversation around mental health and will bring together a community choir to perform Glen Shorrock’s hit ‘Help is on its Way’. Townsville’s choir will include members of the community, Emergency Services, the Defence Force and Council staff who were involved in the response to the unprecedented monsoon.


    “Coastal regions like Miami in the US are already starting to see property values drop as houses get harder to insure, [Dr Nalau] added.
    Part of our retreat strategy needs to manage the relocation of people currently living in low-lying areas in ways that don’t leave them financially destitute.
    But there are competing interests between property developers and house buyers.
    Developers currently suffer no consequences when poorly planned housing developments are hit with foreseeable natural disasters, Dr Siders argued.
    “It’s a challenge of who has the incentive to build and who bears the risk. Developers can come in and build and then they’re gone before the next flood comes,” she said.
    “They’re not living through the flood, they’re not dealing with the harms, they’re not paying for the recovery afterwards.
    “That’s left on the people who actually live there or the taxpayers who are funding that recovery and mitigation for the next disaster.”

    Any Townsville reader is going to think of Idalia immediately.

    1. Two and a half years on, we’re told that homes near the lakes in Idalia are keenly sought after. All that Green Path can say is that either the story is totally unbelievable whether it’s true or not.
      “In Idalia, where 8.1 per cent of properties were listed last year, agents have reported “record numbers” at some open homes. House values in Idalia have been clawing their way back after the 2019 floods, rising 11.7 per cent in the three months to January, according to the REA Market Trends report.”

  3. People are still asking each other, “How did you go in the floods?” and the answers often show that many of us are still struggling. “The garden is getting back to normal but we’re still not able to move back into the house,” was one reply I heard recently.
    Another (older) couple are still living in a child’s house while their own is being repaired, but the new-to-me twist is that some people simply left town for months – one couple moved to Mackay while their home was being fixed because the rents in Townsville skyrocketed, and another moved to Brisbane for a while.

  4. Insurance costs are rising because of the increased risks which insurers are now aware of.

    Dramatic hikes in insurance premiums combined with tighter lending in response to climate risk could trigger a wider property market correction, according to leading climate risk analyst Karl Mallon.

    The warning comes as new analysis from his firm Climate Risk shows the number of “uninsurable” addresses in Australia is projected to double by the turn of the century to nearly 720,000 — or one in 20 — if nothing is done to address escalating risk from extreme weather and climate change.

    Thousands more will see their insurance premiums double or even triple within decades, the data reveals.

    One Townsville apartment owner “is expecting a 30 per cent jump in insurance costs next year — on top of a five-fold increase that has seen the annual premium [for the complex] soar from less than $30,000 to more than $150,000 in a decade.”

    It’s a long, thorough investigation and is worth reading in full. Find it at

  5. It’s nearly Christmas, and things still haven’t improved for a lot of people:

    Many residents cannot return home or have their properties completely repaired before year’s end. The Queensland Reconstruction Authority said figures from October indicated that repairs had not started on about 540 of the 1,800 properties that remained damaged, with 740 still uninhabitable.

  6. And here comes sea-level rise to amplify our water problems:

    In Australia, we predict the areas to be worst-affected by flooding are concentrated in the north and northeast of the continent, including around Darwin and Townsville. … Under a scenario of high greenhouse gas emissions and assuming no flood defences, such as sea walls, we estimate that the land area affected by coastal flooding could increase by 48% by 2100. … It’s clear the world must ramp up measures to adapt to coastal flooding and offset associated social and economic impacts.
    This adaptation will include building and enhancing coastal protection structures such as dykes or sea walls. It will also include coastal retreat – allowing low-lying coastal areas to flood, and moving human development inland to safer ground. It will also require deploying coastal warning systems and increasing flooding preparedness of coastal communities. This will require careful long-term planning.

  7. Nearly two years on, about 200 people are still not back in their homes.

    Shortly after the monsoon, the Queensland Reconstruction Authority (QRA) completed 8,400 assessments of North Queensland properties and about 4,000 have since been identified as damaged.
    Last week, the QRA inspected progress on the outstanding 1,045 Townsville properties, mostly houses, and said almost 78 per cent had been repaired.
    A remaining 232 properties were damaged and work had commenced on half of them, while 74 of those properties remain uninhabitable.

  8. Brisbane is still coming to terms with its 2011 floods but a lot of their solutions apply here:
    “…building homes so they could be washed out without being ruined. “It’s really just a recognition of the fact that we will never really be able to stop all the water that we’re seeing now if we want to continue living in a floodplain like we do in Brisbane, or elsewhere around the state,” he said. “We have to accept a certain level of risk.”
    “From a sustainability point of view, given that people don’t have to rip everything out and start again, we’re significantly reducing the amount of waste that goes to landfill over the life of the house,” he said.
    “The worst form of house in a floodplain is essentially a slab on ground, brick veneer, plasterboard house with a pine frame construction.” The flood resilient homes feature large open spaces that are easy to clean and often include materials like hard timbers and concrete…”

  9. Two and a half years on, the Council is celebrating repairs to one of the Ross River weirs –
    “Townsville City Council has successfully completed works on Black Weir to repair damage sustained during the unprecedented 2019 monsoon floods, with large concrete panels being airlifted onto the weir as part of the complex project. Council contracted local business CivilPlus Constructions to undertake the $150,000 repair project …” and spokespeople for all three levels of government (federal Libs, state Labor and local Labor) claimed credit for the work, which we think is remarkable.

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