This information was taken from Natural Disasters and a Warming Climate;

Understanding the Cumulative Financial Impacts on Victoria (2014) by Tom Delbridge and Cam Walker. Published by Friends of the Earth.




According to the Victorian government, “generally in Victoria major regional floods occur about every 5 to 10 years. Larger floods are less frequent, but it is not unknown for more than one major flood to occur in a catchment in successive years”. The management of floods and floodplains brings together the resources of various agencies, authorities, municipal councils, emergency services and the flood affected community to take appropriate and timely action in relation to flood prevention, response and recovery (DEPI, 2013). While it is difficult to attribute a specific weather event to a changing climate, the recent flooding events around Victoria are a reminder to what scientists have been suggesting in the last decade. That along with rising global temperatures and rising sea levels comes a greater frequency of extreme weather events such as fires, droughts, heatwaves and severe storms. 


From September 2010 to February 2011 and during March 2012, Victoria experienced some of the worst floods in the state’s history. Approximately one-third of Victoria, including 70 local government areas, experienced some form of flooding or storm damage, resulting in enormous cost and disruption to regional, urban and rural communities. As at October 2011, the estimated total cost of these floods is nearly $1.3 billion (DEPI, 2013a). The damage caused by flood events in Victoria and Australia is also exacerbated by a lack of flood mitigation techniques, lack of planning and continuing inaction. In fact, a Productivity Commission Report shows annual federal government spending on disaster mitigation has fallen to just $26 million dollars in 2010-11. There was no additional money for flood mitigation in the 2012 federal budget (Fanning, 2012).


Fanning (2012) discusses the lack of QLD flood mitigation measures, stating “it’s staggering to realise that — as a result of this detailed mapping — the insurance companies have a far better idea which properties face the danger of flooding than the occupants do”. Built very close to the coast or in flood zones along waterways, none of these towns has enough flood mitigation – that is, levees or dams – to hold back rising waters. And, by and large, local councils in such areas have not dictated strict building standards to protect home owners against the effects of the almost inevitable floods. You might conclude some of these houses should never have been built at all. To subsequently order the removal of housing stock in areas likely to be affected in future is a fraught and potentially costly exercise.


Although many scientists don't want to conclude that climate change is a main driver, many hint at it's effects. "The extra water vapour (associated with climate change) fuels the monsoon and thus alters the winds and the monsoon itself and so this likely increases the rainfall further," said Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado. "So it is easy to argue that 1 degree Celsius sea surface temperature anomalies gives 10 to 15 percent increase in rainfall" (Birsel, 2013).



January 2011 Floods.


The Victorian floods of January 2011 were the biggest on record for catchments in the west and north-west of the State, and some areas recorded three to four times the January average rainfall. Flooding affected 75 towns, thousands of people and their properties. More than 3,000 Victorians were evacuated from their homes as flood waters continued to rise across the state (DEPI, 2013a). The flooding event came off the back of a 14 year drought. At the time of the flood, over 400 towns were on water restrictions and nearly 100 towns across northern Victoria were on stage three or four water restrictions. The drought also had significant impacts on the availability of water for irrigation (Comrie, 2011) and environmental flows necessary to maintain the health of rivers. Not only were significantly dry conditions setting the scene but the floods were fuelled by a La Nina event that was one of the strongest recorded. Ocean temperatures around Australia were near record high levels, and there were more frequent low pressure systems over Australia and more humid conditions than usual. La Niña periods are usually associated with above normal rainfall during the second half of the year across large parts of Australia and this was certainly the Victorian experience (Comrie, 2011).


The spatial impact was dramatic, calling on much of the emergency services to support local communities that were the hardest hit. Approximately one-third of Victoria, including 70 local government areas, experienced some form of flooding or storm damage, resulting in enormous cost and disruption to regional, urban and rural communities (Comrie, 2011). The impacts of flooding events are ongoing and the recovery efforts are strained by the damage to infrastructure, and the lingering effects of inundation halting a swift response. Along with the substantial impact to residential property and townships, significant loss, damage and isolation to rural properties and farms was experienced. Widespread horticultural damage and loss, crop disease, soil movement and erosion, stranded and lost livestock and fodder loss occurred Comrie, 2011).


Recovery effort


The severe impact of the flooding event in Victoria led to the initiation by the State government of a comprehensive review of flood warnings and emergency response efforts. The Review of the 2010-11 Flood Warning and Response was initiated on 8 February 2011 by the Premier following severe flooding across Victoria in the previous 18 months. Led by Mr Neil Comrie AO, APM, former Chief Commissioner of Victoria Police, the review described the impacts felt, and reviewed the emergency response. The Victorian Government has released a plan in response to the Review of the 2010-11 Flood Warning and Response (DEPI, 2013a).


The plan committed to a continual review and improvement process through revising the Victorian Flood Management Strategy and the Regional Flood Management Strategy and building capacity and skills in flood intelligence.


Key actions include:


  • developing a web-based information system to provide quality information to emergency services and communities about flood risk;
  • conducting up to 25 flood risk studies in flood prone communities;
  • upgrading flood warning systems;
  • improving real-time data collection and delivery systems; and
  • long-term framework to allow communities to periodically review their flood warning requirements.


The Government has already provided $25 million over four years for improvements to flood warning systems and response. Some of these actions have started. The Government will review the progress to ensure all actions are completed (DEPI, 2013a). The plan also stressed the importance of continual commonwealth funding to support ongoing upgrades of flood warning and mitigation systems. The Victorian Auditor General (2013) 'Flood Relief and Recovery' report details the government's recovery funding for the 2010-2011 floods.


Figure 1A: Allocation of flood relief and recovery funding (Victorian Auditor General, 2013, p2).


NDRRA Funding Category


Funding ($ million)


Emergency assistance given to individuals to alleviate personal hardship or distress



Restoration or replacement of essential public assets



Community recovery package to support communities, small businesses and primary producers



Exceptional circumstances as determined by the state and Commonwealth governments


State Funded

Relief and recovery of communities and local economies to increase community resilience in future disasters






As at 31 January 2013, the total cost estimate for relief and recovery was $971 million. Under the provisions of the Natural Disaster Relief and Recovery Arrangements (NDRRA), the state shares costs with the Commonwealth. Following the floods the Commonwealth provided an advance payment under NDRRA of $500 million to Victoria (Victorian Auditor General, 2013, p vii).


Another initiative; The Victorian Business Flood Recovery Fund (VBFRF) is a $10 million Victorian Government initiative which aims to restore and improve the capacity of areas of regional Victoria affected by the 2011 floods and enhance their economic development by encouraging private sector investment and job creation (Regional Development Victoria, 2013).


Table 9: Total Quantifiable Public loss (2011 Floods)


Type of Cost

Amount (million $)


Total ($)

NDRRA Flood relief and recovery funding


Victorian Auditor General, (2013)


State-controlled (arterial) roads damaged


Comrie, (2011)


Railway bridges damaged



Comrie, (2011)


Railway track damaged (washaways)



Comrie, (2011)


Wilsons Promontory NP roads damaged*



Comrie, (2011)


Community facilities (Freehold land, Council owned & operated asset) damaged


Comrie, (2011)


Public land bridges damaged


Comrie, (2011)


Public land roads damaged (V numbers)


Comrie, (2011)


Local-controlled bridges damaged



Comrie, (2011)


Local-controlled roads damaged



Comrie, (2011)



*Commonwealth provided an advance payment under NDRRA of $500 million to Victoria (Victorian Auditor General, 2013, p vii).

*Impacts that have not been given a monetary value include: Environmental losses/ecosystem services.


January 2011 floods private costs: 


The Insurance Council of Australia reported that a total of 56,791 claims have been made to insurance companies (49,000 metropolitan and 7791 rural/regional) to the value of $836.1 million ($662.6 million metropolitan and $173.5 million rural/ regional) – this includes vehicles, property, domestic, commercial and business interruption. Each Victorian department has disaster insurance, and, as at 31 January 2013, approximately $70 million has been reimbursed from insurance claims for the restoration or replacement of essential public assets.


Table 10: Total Quantifiable Private loss (2011 Floods)


Type of Cost

Amount (million $)


Total ($)







Comrie, (2011a)


Tourism revenue loss


Comrie, (2011a)


Horticulture – Other horticulture (loss value)


Comrie, (2011)


Schools affected


Comrie, (2011)



*Impacts that have not been given a monetary value include: Residential and property loss, Commercial and industrial buildings, fatalities.



March 2012 Floods


Early 2012 saw another major flood event in Victoria. Heavy rainfall started on the evening of February 27, 2012 and continued for two days, leading to totals exceeding 250 millimetres in the Broken Creek system in northern Victoria. Overland flooding occurred from direct rainfall in places such as Yarrawonga, Cobram, Tallygaroopna, Congupna and Katandra West. Riverine flooding was also significant and widespread along the Broken Creek system (Environment and Natural Resources Committee, 2012). Hydrologists indicated the rain had exceeded 1993 levels, and approached the 1-in-100 year flood event record in the area north of Shepparton including Numurkah (VICSES, 2012). The flood lasted around three weeks from when rainfall began to when the floodwaters found their way to the Barmah forest and the Murray River.




The impacts of the flood were significant. The flood saw a large multi-agency response with the VICSES being supported by VICPOL and significant numbers of CFA and DSE crews (VICSES, 2012). In evidence provided by the Goulburn CMA at the Numurkah public hearing, a rapid assessment showed a total of around 140 habitable buildings were impacted, including close to 100 in the worst affected town of Numurkah. In each of the floods of 2010, 2011 and 2012 it was a matter of fortune that during these events the Murray River itself was experiencing relatively low flow rates (Environment and Natural Resources Committee, 2012).


Recovery Effort

The Department of Human Services 'Victorian Government flood recovery initiatives in detail' document outlines the recovery initiatives that were implemented after the flooding event and are listed below.

DHS, (2012a):

Recovery initiative

Amount (Million $)

Flood Recovery Support Package


VFF Fodder Program


VICSES Support Victorian Floods


Flood Advisory Service


Numurkah District Health Service repair and other 2012 flood related health initiatives


Flood Recovery – community facilities, recreation sites, and buildings on Crown land


Flood Damage Road and Bridge Reinstatement Works


Surface Water Monitoring Flood Recovery


March 2012 flood data collection and assessment


Restoring Victoria's flood damaged parks


Repairing flood damage to the state's groundwater observation bore network


Facilitating Irrigator Recovery in the Broken Basin


Mitigation of the consequences of flooding initiative


Damage to road infrastructure


2012 Flood Recovery Community Infrastructure Fund


Psychosocial and Community Support



Total: $26.6 Million.


One of the previously launched initiatives was the Flood Support Program, including

$5m to restore flood damaged catchments and improve environmental conditions for tourism businesses and irrigators in flood affected areas (DHS, 2012). Both these initiatives are in addition to the $113 million provided by the Victorian Government to councils and communities affected by the floods. This funding included advance payments to those councils experiencing financial hardship to assist with immediate needs, personal hardship assistance for eligible households, and low-interest loans for farmers and small businesses.


Table 11: Total Quantifiable Public loss (2012 floods)


Type of Cost

Amount (million $)


Total ($)

Flood Recovery Support Package


DHS (2012a)


Flood support program


DHS (2012)


Original government support package


DHS (2012)


Roads repair and restore package


Premier of Victoria, (2012)



*Impacts that have not been given a monetary value include: Environmental and ecosystem services loss, and public infrastructure.


2012 Floods Private Costs


The reality of private losses during this flood event is unclear due to a lack of accounting and loss assessment. The only estimate that is considered reliable for private losses during this event is the data of insurance losses.


Table 12: Total Quantifiable Private loss (2012 floods)


Type of Cost

Amount (million $)


Total ($)






*Impacts that have not been given a monetary value include: Residential and property loss, commercial and industrial buildings, local economic loss and agricultural losses.