Tuesday, 20 December 2022

Questions without notice




Peter WALSH (Murray Plains) (16:48): My question is to the Premier. In October Rochester was hit with a flood that was significantly worse than the 2011 flood. More than 90 per cent of the housing in and around the town was flood damaged. The community has been traumatised by two extreme floods in 11 years and needs confidence that the government is doing all that it can to mitigate future extreme flooding events. The Eildon and Hume dams are gated reservoirs with a capacity to prerelease water to mitigate against extreme flooding. However, Lake Eppalock near Rochester is a fixed-crest weir with no capacity to prerelease sufficient water to protect Rochester from extreme flooding. On behalf of the Rochester community, will the government provide funding for a feasibility study for the reconfiguration of the Eppalock dam wall to allow for the effective prerelease of water to protect the town against future extreme flooding events?

Daniel ANDREWS (Mulgrave – Premier) (16:49): I thank the Leader of the Nationals for his question, and he is right to say that Rochester has had an incredibly difficult time and is still going through a really significant event. To each and every family and business in the Rochester community, and to the smaller communities who look to Rochester as their hub, if you like, I give our commitment as the government and all of our agencies to stand with each and every one of those affected businesses and households to rebuild and to work with our partners – our very positive partners in Canberra – to make sure that under those Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements and other budget allocations that we may make between now and the budget in May next year we will do everything we possibly can to support those businesses, those families, that community – not just to repair, but to thrive. That might seem a long way off for many families in that local community. I have visited it a number of times; I will be back there again soon, I hope.

I also want to thank the Leader of the Nationals for the constructive way in which he has engaged with our government and with staff from my office. We were having a discussion about it earlier today. These things are well above politics. This community does not need that sort of stuff. What this community and so many other flood-affected communities need is that absolute determination to do whatever we can to repair, to rebuild and then to learn from this very, very significant event.

Now, what I would stay to the honourable member and to the Rochester community is I am not a hydrologist and I am not an engineer, but we do have many people across our public sector who have already begun the process of looking at this particular flood event to look at what might be able to be done in the future to mitigate and to make it less likely that with that sort of record rainfall we would have a similar inundation of so many homes and so many businesses, essentially the entire town. That is a more complex piece of work than I think we can do justice to today.

I am always happy to sit down with the Leader of the National Party, the local member, to talk about these issues. I am always happy to do that. I am always happy to be there on the ground as well, listening to that local community. What I would say is this: let us be really clear, if we are going to protect Rochester, if we going to rebuild Rochester and if we are going to truly support those businesses, those families and that community, then their voices have to be heard in whatever mitigation work is done. Whatever work is done as a result of this flood event needs to be driven by that community, and my commitment is to deliver exactly that. If the member wants to continue this discussion, I am more than happy to do that. It is not about politics, it is about making sure that we get on and support that community at what is undoubtably a very, very challenging time.