Former Bundaberg Mayor Mal Forman.
Former Bundaberg Mayor Mal Forman. Scottie Simmonds

IN HIS WORDS: Former mayor's opinion on Paradise Dam

AS THE Mayor of the Bundaberg region during the 2013 floods I have seen firsthand the devastation caused by flooding in the Burnett River.

Guiding our region through the largest flood on record was an absolute privilege, and a responsibility which I took very seriously.

To this day I am incredibly proud of how the Bundaberg Regional Council worked with SunWater, Police, Emergency Services and the State Government to protect our citizens.

After the 2013 floods an incredible amount of work and resources were invested into improving the region's flood response strategy.

New gauges were installed, emergency evacuation plans updated, town planning and new building flood levels implemented, new  flood warning systems were implemented along with new mapping and modeling data updated.

As a result, the 2013 floods have strengthened our region's flood response plan and have ensured that, should a similar flood occur in our lifetimes, the council will respond with better information and updated Emergency Action Plan standing operating procedures; and detailed operations and maintenance manual and the same tenacity and commitment that was seen in 2013.

However, I have been observing and watching the politicising of one of this region's most traumatic events with perplexing concern and disappointment.

It has become apparent and seems to me that our State Government is playing on the understandable fears of our region's citizens by implying that Paradise Dam is an imminent safety risk to our community.

It appears the current State Government is disregarding the previous reporting and communication provided by SunWater's executive and senior staff regarding the safety and condition of Paradise Dam to myself as Mayor and Chairperson of the Local Disaster Management Group and disaster management co-ordinator Bundaberg LDMG which demonstrated that, while the dam is 'distressed', it would be secure and stable if a similar flood the size of 2013.

There is evidence in the communication records indicating that the disaster management groups received reassuring advice about dam safety risks from SunWater.

The government has known for seven years that the dam was damaged by the 2013 floods.

They have invested over $30 million in repairing and strengthening the dissipator slab and apron and another $30 plus million dollars on other damaged areas of the dam since the flood.

In my humble opinion, and after some investigation and speaking with an engineer that with some prudent investment into repairs on the dam, there is no reason it can't be made safer, without lowering the wall. In the meantime, if we have another flood up to the size of the 2013 flood I have confidence in our council's flood plan to protect our region and our citizens.

As a long term resident of the Bundaberg region, I am strongly supportive of the importance for water security for our residents and our farming community. I have watched how our agricultural industries have blossomed since the building of Paradise Dam. It is water that has made the Bundaberg region a significant productive food bowl and I am deeply concerned that if Paradise Dam will be lowered it may never be reinstated.

If that occurs, we can watch the economic prosperity of our region be severely damaged.

I have provided the Paradise Dam Flood Event of January to March 2013 review...

It can be obtained here: Dam.

Mal Forman