How engineers can and must get involved in Australia’s flood re-build

Following the Queensland and New South Wales floods, Engineers Australia would like to share volunteering and donation opportunities for engineers wishing to help with recovery and re-building efforts.
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Engineers will play a vital role in the re-build post the severe flooding events that have devastated homes and key infrastructure across south-east Queensland and New South Wales.

Engineers Australia CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans AM says it is crucial that qualified engineers are part of the flood rehabilitation effort to ensure community safety and confidence as people return to their homes and workplaces.

“We know these floods have wreaked havoc in many parts of NSW and Queensland, devastating communities.  There are many damaged areas in need of urgent reassessment and infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt to withstand natural events of this magnitude – events that are occurring more regularly,” Dr Evans says.

“Qualified engineers fully understand the extent of what is required to do this and can use learnings from this event to apply a big-picture technical perspective to re-building plans.”

In the past months Engineers Australia has been working with members and reaching out to our extensive stakeholder and industry contact base to facilitate opportunities for our engineers to aid with recovery efforts across the states. This is vitally important and a cornerstone of what we stand for – that is –advancing society through great engineering.

Engineers Without Borders seeking qualified engineers

With more than 3500 flood damaged houses deemed uninhabitable, and critical communal and private infrastructure damaged, communities in the Northern Rivers of NSW are asking for your help.

Engineers Without Borders Australia (EWB) is calling for qualified engineers from a range of disciplines, including civil, structural, geo-technical and water engineers, to sign up as volunteers.

By volunteering for a few days, a long weekend or longer, you could help flooded families get back into their homes.

You will need to get yourself to the region, but once there you will work with other volunteers to support recovery efforts, supported and coordinated by our partner Resilient Byron.

For more information, refer to the project description. There are also many more engineering opportunities available through the EWB website.

Semi-retired engineer callout

Engineers Australia Member Alan Taylor is currently in Lismore to do pro-bono dilapidation reports for flood victims.

Barry Armstrong, a licenced builder from New South Wales, is coordinating the effort. They are looking for semi-retired engineers who can assist in the effort to produce more of these reports for residents.

The engineers are drafting reports on six houses each day in tandem with a builder. These reports are then given to the owner who can then send them to Lismore Council to file. This provides a sense of relief for many home owners and allows them to get on with the work that needs to be done in their home.

There are limited spaces for accommodation for volunteers, you may need to find your own. Volunteers are currently doing one week of shifts on rotation, but you may volunteer for any amount of time. Conditions for this work can be tough, appropriate clothing such as long pants and sturdy boots are required.

Interested engineers can contact Barry to find out more or get involved at [email protected]

Other ways to get involved

The NSW Government is urging people to donate responsibly and not to donate unwanted goods to communities affected by the floods.

Good Samaritans are being urged to take advantage of established arrangements with GIVIT, to assist with managing donated money and offers of goods and services. Visit the GIVIT website for more information.

Should members wish to donate their services, contact the Resilience NSW team at [email protected]

You can also make financial donations to established appeals, there is a list of options on the New South Wales government website.

The Queensland Government is also partnering with GIVIT to manage offers of donated goods, services and funds.  

Future actions

While volunteering is a crucial short-term form of post disaster assistance, the role of engineers in flood resilience will continue for generations.

CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans AM says engineers again will be pivotal in decision making when it comes to understanding if structures will need to be moved or redesigned.

“Technical input for these decisions needs to come from experienced qualified engineers. These engineers are needed to reflect on flood models used for planning, and to study the data used to zone land areas.”

She says it will be important to involve the right kind of engineering professionals for each step in the long-term recovery and resilience effort.

“Already we’ve seen examples of engineers in Australia using artificial intelligence to save people and property from severe flooding. In Scotland engineers built Europe’s first ever ‘smart canal’ scheme, which uses advanced computer modelling to mitigate flood risk.

“Engineers will be the brains behind climate smart materials and construction methods, as well as prediction and surveillance models which can give us vital information about these events,” Dr Evans said. 

“Engineers Australia has offered our vast professional engineer network to the National Recovery and Resilience Agency and the Trades and Construction National Coordination Mechanism to ensure engineers are embedded in the decision-making processes that affect recovery efforts.

“We also continue to push for automatic mutual recognition of qualified engineers between states so that engineers can work throughout the country."

“Country-wide recognition will allow the best engineering minds to be embedded in vital projects to protect Australians as the world warms Dr Evans said.

“Engineering processes can be used in every element of disaster management, from mitigation to reduction and rebuilding. Engineers Australia looks forward to supporting these engineers in their crucial roles.”