Resilience not relocation key to NT flood response

A Darwin-based engineering expert says building resilience, not relocation, is the answer for flood-prone communities.

A Darwin-based engineering expert says building resilience, not relocation, is the answer for flood-prone communities.

Charles Darwin University engineering expert Dr Cat Kutay commented on March 20 about the devastating flooding that has hit the Northern Territory and north of Western Australia this year.

Flooding and evacuations across Northern Territory have reignited debate about relocating vulnerable communities, while Kutay believes that resilience should take precedence over relocation.

“We often have many Aboriginal communities embedded within mainstream communities. This population is usually well informed about the suitable building locations from the long local memory stored in their stories. Yet such people are rarely consulted in building phases’ house design or location. This information could improve the viability of houses in flood-prone areas, from Lismore to Fitzroy Crossing,” Kutay said.

Dr Kutay also noted how homes are built as a significant factor.

“Relocating houses when people have chosen that location for a reason. It should be carried out in a consultation that involves thorough listening to new perspectives. Options such as building houses on piles can be considered. Areas that are less prone near flooded areas should be sought rather than total relocation.”

Kutay said authorities have “not learnt to respect the power of water and the changes in the flow”.

“We still rely on the last fifty-year flows for planning, and we still like to build on the lush and flat river floodplains,” she said.

“Attempts to alter flow often include placing rocks to prevent erosion, but they only divert flow that also directs silt and debris in higher amounts to other locations. The problem is worsening, and we need sustainable models covering long periods of wind, sea and river changes.

“In the north of Australia, we have the opportunity to listen to traditional knowledge holders to understand the concepts of water flow more holistically. This process must show respect and reciprocity and not be a process of acquisition.”

Related Articles:

Send this to a friend