By Angela Dorizas
The unprecedented flood crisis in Queensland will be the subject of an independent commission of inquiry, Premier Anna Bligh has announced.
With the powers of a Royal Commission, the Inquiry will seek submissions from the public, summon witnesses, compel the production of documents and issue search warrants.
The Commission will make recommendations in its interim report in August, before releasing the final report in January 2012.
Head of the Commission is Queensland Justice Cate Holmes. She is joined by former Queensland Police Commissioner, Jim O’Sullivan, and international expert on dams, Phil Cummins, who will serve as Deputy Commissioners.
Following weeks of flooding, three quarters of Queensland has been declared a disaster zone and 20 people have been confirmed dead.
“The last three weeks have been truly shocking for all Queenslanders and now is the time to forensically examine the devastating chain of events and the aftermath,” Ms Bligh said.
“This will be an open, transparent and honest review into what we have just experienced.
“We owe it to those who have died and to future generations to learn the lessons of these floods.”
The Commission will be asked to inquire into and report on the preparation and planning by federal, State and local governments, along with emergency services and the community; the performance of private insurers in meeting claims; and all aspects of the response to the flood events, including immediate management, response and recovery.
It will also inquire into and report on the measures to manage the supply of essential services, such as power, water and communications during the flood crisis; the implementation of the systems operation plans for dams across the state; and all aspects of land use planning.
The adequacy of forecasts and early warnings, particularly in Toowoomba and the Lockyer and Brisbane Valleys, will also be scrutinised.
With approximately 70 per cent of the state affected by the floods, the Premier reassured the public that the Government was committed to restoring basic services, rebuilding infrastructure and supporting devastated communities.
“This work will operate in parallel to the work of the Commission,” she said.
LGAQ cautions on inquiry
The Local Government Association of Queensland (LGAQ) has warned that a royal commission style inquiry will put undue pressure on flood-affected councils.
LGAQ president Paul Bell acknowledged the need for an inquiry into the flood disaster but added one caveat.
“There are many lessons to be learned from the terrible flooding that has ravaged most of Queensland for weeks and a thorough review of the way all levels of government deal with such disasters is necessary,” he said in a statement.
“However, forcing small and medium sized councils to deal with the demands of a full scale royal commission style inquiry while they are struggling to restore some semblance of normality back to their communities deserves close examination.”
Cr Bell said any inquiry should not distract from the rebuilding process.
“I am concerned that, whatever form the review into this disaster takes, it does not draw precious time and resources away from these councils at a time when they face huge challenges in restoring infrastructure and services.”
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