Flood inquiry hearings set to begin

3 August 2023 See the hearing schedule

The impacts of the October 2022 flood event are still being felt across Victoria.

Rochester was one of the hardest hit towns, with an estimated 90% of properties experiencing some level of inundation.

‘What we experience here locally is around about 40 per cent of our population are not living in town, they're dispersed,’ Rochester Flood Recovery Committee Chair Leigh Wilson said.

‘Now that's a mix of people living in caravans, in other regions or other communities.

‘People have even left the state.’

Leigh Wilson, Rochester Flood Recovery Committee Chair

‘We're having entire families sell up and leave, so this hurts not only our local economy, but hurts the social fabric of our community.’

Mr Wilson was among dozens of Rochester residents who attended a submission writing workshop at the Rochester Secondary College in June.

Legislative Council Environment and Planning Committee staff working on the parliamentary probe into the disaster provided a briefing on the inquiry process and advised residents on how best to share their story.

On Wednesday 23 August it will be the turn of committee members to meet survivors in the town at the first of several public hearings.

The following day the committee will move to Echuca, which was heavily impacted by flooding of the Campaspe and Murray rivers.

‘These public hearings are an important opportunity for groups and individuals to share their lived experience and tell us about the ongoing issues in their communities,’ Committee Chair Sonja Terpstra said.

‘It’s also a chance for witnesses to give their views on what contributed to the floods and how things could be done differently in the future.’

In September, the committee moves to Shepparton and Seymour for another two days of hearings.

‘We know the effects of the October 2022 flood event were felt far and wide, so it’s crucial we hear firsthand from people in key areas,’ Ms Terpstra said.

Seymour residents attended a submission writing workshop at the flood recovery hub.

For some it was the first time they had met with fellow flood victims.

‘We haven't really spoken to any other people that have been impacted by the flood until tonight,’ Stuart Hanley said.

‘So, it's interesting to hear some other points of view and perspectives on how things can improve.’

Seymour was the first town swamped by the deluge which has taken a toll on local business, schools, infrastructure, farming and wildlife.

‘Our businesses have been seriously impacted, particularly our tourism sector,’ Mitchell Shire Council Flood and Community Recovery Manager Kellie Massouras said. 

‘We know that our wombat population has been heavily impacted as well. Their burrows are still a lot underwater, so they haven't been able to return home.’

Fifty-two roads across the Seymour and district region were also damaged.

‘Council made a large submission to the inquiry.’

Kellie Massouras, Mitchell Shire Council

‘We have asked for 29 recommendations in regards to flood mitigation, community preparedness, but also in safer infrastructure for our residents.’

More than 750 submissions have been received and are being progressively published online.

Further public hearings will be held in Melbourne in October, focusing on the Maribyrnong River flood. The schedules will be listed on the committee inquiry website.