08 Feb 2023, 12:27
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan):

My question is to the Minister for Water.

I attended last week one of the public consultations on the Maribyrnong flood event that you referred to. I enjoyed the session, and looking at the terms of reference for the review, it raises some interesting issues. But as one of my neighbours said at the meeting, pointing to the section of the terms of reference that is marked ‘out of scope’, ‘Mate, what’s happening with the interesting bits?’ Now, those interesting bits include appropriate policy responses to the event, future potential mitigation measures, the overall emergency response adequacy, the flood recovery process and consequential planning issues that arise.

Minister, how does the government propose to discuss with the public and those affected by the flood those out-of-scope issues?

Harriet SHING (Eastern Victoria – Minister for Water, Minister for Regional Development, Minister for Commonwealth Games Legacy, Minister for Equality):

Thank you, Mr Ettershank, for your question and for rising to your feet to ask the first question following your inaugural speech yesterday.

This is a matter which, again to put on the record, has been an enormous source of distress and of loss for people not just within the Maribyrnong community but all across the state. And this is where again it is important to recognise that when we come to this place and when we talk about the way in which improvements can be made we understand and recognise that there have been and there continue to be significant numbers of people who have been displaced; businesses that have been disrupted; and primary producers, farmers and indeed people right across rural and regional Victoria who are continuing to feel the impact of the flooding events which are one-in-50year events and one-in-100-year events and which have caused untold damage.

One of the things that I do want to note, germane to your question, is the scope of the terms of reference. They are in fact broader than a range of reports would perhaps have people understand, and this is where the information sessions are a good opportunity – as you have indicated, you have attended one already – for people to understand the way in which the independent review is being undertaken.

This is a review – and this is for the benefit of those opposite to understand – that is being undertaken at arm’s length.

What will happen once this review is finalised is that there will be a review report that is provided to government with findings and/or recommendations that come to us for response.

When I look at the way in which the terms of reference operate, the terms themselves include but are not limited to: the overall emergency responses, including flood warnings and evacuation procedures to the extent that Melbourne Water is a contributing agency to warnings issued by the SES, along with the Bureau of Meteorology, and the way in which watch-and-act warnings were issued two days before the event – and there were variables within the scope of what happened on the ground, as you would well know – and they can then inform learnings about the way in which modelling is conducted; flood recovery actions; possible future flood mitigation options; and planning policy processes and reviews.

In addition to that work that is being undertaken, this is about the way in which impact can be understood and the extent to which impact can be measured and the way in which that was contributed to and the extent to which there may have been a contribution as a consequence of other decisions.

So it is again really important that people are in a position to understand the breadth of the terms of reference, and you would also know from the community information session that you attended that there were other attendees beyond Melbourne Water there. Again this is about making sure that the SES, Emergency Management Victoria and the – [Time expired]


I understand entirely, and I thank the minister for her response. It seems to me, and this is perhaps too big an issue to resolve here, that what you are talking about is a review that is literally being done by Melbourne Water of Melbourne Water, and it is limited to Melbourne Water, albeit that there is an independent panel.

I guess looking at these out-of-scope issues, these are big issues. These are bigger issues than Melbourne Water; they affect many areas across Victoria. And I guess a lot of people would like to know that the government is ahead of the game.

I understand what you are saying about a one-in-50 and a one-in-100. But go to Lismore and talk to them about a one-in-100. It is a joke, and we have seen that a lot. So I guess I would like to understand, Minister, how these bigger issues are going to be discussed with the Victorian public and particularly with those who have suffered at the hands of the events in question.

Harriet SHING:

Thank you for the supplementary question. Again you raise a really important point. It is about how the totality of circumstances and decisions that were taken not just during the floods but in the immediate aftermath and as broader planning, mitigation and prevention preparedness activities are undertaken into the future.

Again, this is a whole-of-state issue, but to the extent that that relates to Melbourne Water’s work I am advised that the collating of issues as they relate to other matters is then going to be part of a communication of that substance to community members. Indeed there have been preliminary discussions with partner flood agencies and that they include the Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Action, the SES, Emergency Management Victoria, Emergency Recovery Victoria and also local councils. This is something which the emergency management commissioner Andrew Crisp and the emergency services minister have also commented on in public domains on a number of occasions now.


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