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John Oxley Library

Flood Mitigation in Queensland

By JOL Admin | 22 August 2011

In the wake of the disastrous floods of 2010/11, there have been many suggestions as to ways and means of mitigating such floods. Especially after the recent release of the interim report of the Queensland flood commission of inquiry.

Given Queensland’s history of extreme weather, this situation is nothing new. In the aftermath of the 1893 floods, much the same thing happened. Enter  George Phillips, a civil engineer who had a truly memorable theory about flood mitigation in Brisbane. On the grounds of expense he dismissed the possibilities of using dams and/or  creating artificial canals or diverting the river,  in favour of a simple solution: let’s remove Kangaroo Point! He claimed that by widening  and deepening the path of the Brisbane River, you would enable the flood water to flow freely, and thus minimize the damage.. Moreover by so doing you could improve the port of Brisbane, according to his little book, The mitigation of floods in the Brisbane River, published in 1901.

George Phillips, 1907. John Oxley Library Image 64716.

Who was George Phillips? He was an extraordinary man who was by turns an explorer, politician, surveyor and civil engineer. Phillips was born in England in 1843 and died on June 2, 1921 in Queensland; his family migrated to Australia when he was eight. He qualified as a surveyor  and civil engineer, and  accompanied William Landsborough in his expedition through the Diamantina country in 1866. With Landsborough he undertook further exploration of the Gulf country, and did much to open up that part of Queensland. In 1874 he joined the Railway Department and remained in its service until 1886 as surveyor and engineer.  He entered the political arena and served as MLA for Carpentaria between 1893 and 1896. In later years he had a private practice as engineer and surveyor.

He was also an advocate of another notable solution to Brisbane’s water problems, namely the use of the Stradbroke Island water source for Brisbane’s supply. Not surprisingly, neither suggestion  was ever acted on.

Trudy Bennett

Librarian - John Oxley Library


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