Grantham planned relocation
Grantham - Planned Relocation in the Lockyer Valley
By changing the ways we live, or do things, in response to an extreme event such as a flood or a drought, we can also deliver outcomes which are successful adaptations to future climate change. A very good example of this is the recent initiative in the Lockyer Valley, SE Queensland, to relocate residents who were affected by the January 2011 floods.
Planned relocation, or retreat, is an adaptation strategy that involves an incremental or rapid shift of a population away from an area at risk. In Australia the notion of planned retreat has been widely discussed in the media and academic literature, with usual reference to coastal community exposure to the risks from seal-level rise and exacerbated risks from storm tides.
While it is a widely debated topic very few councils have established planned relocation and retreat as a policy response to climate change risks. Those who have attempted to implement such a policy have faced considerable challenges. For example, Byron Bay Shire Council, NSW, recently attempted to activate its 2006 strategy by restricting the erection of sea defences on a private property. A subsequent court battle ensued and the council lost its case.
This case study explores what is arguably Australia’s first implemented relocation policy, in the Lockyer Valley of South East Queensland. Ironically, while the planned retreat discussion has mainly been framed in a sea level rise context, this example is located inland, far from any coastal influence. Moreover, the Lockyer Valley Regional Council did not undertake this activity as a response to perceived future impacts of climate change, but in response to a much more immediate threat – that the January 2011 flood might be repeated.
On January 10th 2011, what has been described as an ‘inland tsunami’ flooded through the Lockyer Valley region of South East Queensland. Between 1st December 2010 and 23rd January 2011 and between 600mm and 1000 mm of rain was recorded in the catchment with most of this rainfall occurring between the 9th and the 13th of January 2011 (BoM 2011a).
The towns and localities inundated by the flooding were “Spring Bluff, Murphys Creek, Postmans Ridge, Withcott, Flagstone Creek, Helidon, Grantham, Gatton, Forest Hill, Mulgowie, Laidley, Mount Sylvia, Black Duck Creek, Junction View, East Haldon, Glenore Grove, Crowley Vale, Brightview, Regency Downs and Lockrose. The impact of the devastation was especially tragic in Postmans Ridge, Murphys Creek and Grantham” (Lockyer Valley Regional Council 2011a, p.4). The flash resulted in at least 12 deaths, washed away over 800 vehicles and destroyed 120 homes (Lockyer Valley Regional Council 2011b).
Figure 1. Location of Grantham and other affected regions in South East Queensland . Red dots are reported flood inundated towns or cities and blue dots are flood affected towns or cities (source: BoM 2011, p.1)
During January 10th The Lockyer Creek at Helidon peaked at 13.88 metres, over six metres higher than the previous record set in 1974 (BoM 2011b)
Figure 2. Historical flood heights, Lockyer Creek at Helidon (source BoM 2011, p.11)
With so much devastation the Council decided to give those members of the community affected by the flooding the option to relocate from the area at risk, stating that it has “a unique and important role in rebuilding Grantham and its community” (Lockyer Valley Council 2011b p.2).
On the 23rd February the Lockyer Valley Regional Council released its flood recovery policy which included provisions for Australian Government, Queensland Government and community advocacy, creation of committees and sub-committees, public meetings, and flood studies. On 11th May 2011, the Council released its Relocation Policy.
Prior to the policy release Council had purchased a parcel of land (almost 1,000 ha) located near Grantham, above the January 2011 flood lines. An offer was made to those from affected areas to voluntarily swap their existing parcel of land for a new parcel in the new development.
The Council then undertook a range of visioning meetings, involving planners and engineers, marketers and financial planners for the community. Afterwards, it was stated that:
The vision for the first stage of the development provides land for the voluntary relocation of participating land owners (through the Land Offer Program) to a high quality residential development, serviced by sewer, water and other utilities. Community members can establish themselves in a safe area that is close to the existing commercial heart of Grantham. Other services and benefits will attract a growing population to the town contributing to a sustainable future for Grantham. (Lockyer Valley Regional Council 2011, p.3)
The parcels of land offered range from 500 square metres to 8,000 square metres, depending on the size of the land held by the applicant. No contributions will be required from applicants. Council will be investing up to $40 million into the project over the coming years to develop the master planned community.
In June Stage One was released, which included 80 parcels of land. According to the Council they have already received over 70 applications and are now extending the Stage to contain 90 parcels to reflect the strong demand. The Stage One land parcels were allocated by ballot in August 2011, and it is estimated that around half the participant received their first preference. Approximately 60 jobs will be created in the project and it is likely that people will be moving into the new estate by the end of the year. This move affects about one-third of the population of Grantham, and there is no doubt that it is key to the long-term viability of the community, given the devastation wrought by the floods.
Part of the process leading up to the decision to relocate affected properties in Grantham included:
- seeking community input;
- obtaining expedited planning approval from the State;
- planning studies during this process.
Currently council has commissioned consultants SKM to undertake a flood study of the region to:
- reduce the risks of flood damage (to both life and property) in the Lockyer Valley community;
- increase community preparedness for flood events;
- decrease the impacts of significant flood events on the community; and
- improve the community’s ability to recover after a flood event (Lockyer Valley Regional Council 2011c).
Although climate change is not the prime motivator of this initiative, the relocation is an appropriate climate change adaptation taking into account the guidance in the Queensland Flood study, which projects a 5% increase in rainfall intensity for each 1°C of average warming (see NCCARF case study on Inland Floods).
This project has been hailed as an Australian first in terms of adapting to extreme weather events. A very significant factor is that the time between the disaster and release of the first stage of land for relocation is less than six months. This included community consultation, planning studies and approval from the State. Rapid response has meant that the inhabitants of the town could be sure of the long-term commitment of the Council to the continuity of Grantham and that, despite the flood, the long-term sustainability of their community was never in doubt.
It is likely that lessons learned from this project will be dissemination throughout Australia. The Council received broad media coverage when they announced the release of the first stage (see http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/features/military-leads-quest-for-higher-ground/story-e6frg6z6-1226108590363).
Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) (2011) Flood summary for Lockyer Creek – December 2010 and January 2011, available from http://www.bom.gov.au/hydro/flood/qld/fld_reports/lockyer_creek_fact_sheet_2011.pdf
Lockyer Valley Regional Council (2011a) Locker Valley Community Recovery Plan, available from http://www.lockyervalley.qld.gov.au/images/PDF/community%20recovery%20plan.pdf
Lockyer Valley Regional Council (2011b) Grantham Relocation Policy, available from http://www.lockyervalley.qld.gov.au/images/PDF/grantham_relocation_policy_master_final_with%20map.pdf
Queensland Office of Climate Change, Department of Environment and Resource Management, Department of Infrastructure and Planning and Local Government Association of Queensland (2011) Increasing Queensland’s resilience to inland flooding in a changing
climate: Final report on the Inland Flooding Study, available from http://www.climatechange.qld.gov.au/pdf/inlandfloodstudy.pdf