Joint media release: Building a reliable National Flood Warning Infrastructure Network

The Hon Tanya Plibersek MP, Minister for the Environment and Water
Senator The Hon Murray Watt, Minister for Emergency Management

The Albanese Labor Government will invest $236 million over 10 years to establish a national, reliable flood warning network.

Communities, emergency services and businesses need reliable access to flood forecasts and warnings, to help them prepare and respond to flooding events. This investment will improve reliability and consistency of flood data, forecasts and warnings.

The funding will be used to purchase and upgrade high priority flood gauges that are currently owned by local, state and territory governments in flood-prone areas. In many cases these are run down and poorly maintained. 

Based on the advice of the Bureau of Meteorology, work in Queensland will be prioritised. This is due to the high flood risk to the community in Australia’s most disaster-prone state and the Queensland Government’s prior commitment to share the cost of ongoing operations of the flood gauge network.

This funding will ensure high priority catchment upgrades can begin in every state and territory across Australia, if successful cost sharing arrangements are agreed to.

Over a number of years, local and state governments have been calling for a national solution to address critical, long-standing risks in Australia’s flood gauge network.

Dating as far back as 2015, studies have warned that the patchwork flood gauge network would increase risk during floods. Most recently, following the devastating 2022 flood season, multiple independent inquiries called upon the Federal Government to consolidate, upgrade and assume responsibility for ongoing maintenance of the flood network. The inquiries identified several, terrifying examples where communities were left uninformed or unprepared during the floods because of broken or outdated flood gauges.

The Labor Government is fixing this, after years of Coalition neglect.

The Flood Warning Infrastructure Network builds upon the work the Albanese Government is doing to ensure Australia is better prepared for future disasters. This includes new Budget commitments to overhaul how warning messages are delivered to residents during disasters through the National Messaging System (NMS), as well as ongoing investment in resilience and mitigation measures that will keep communities safer from disasters, through the Disaster Ready Fund.

Comments attributable to the Minister for the Environment Tanya Plibersek:

“Severe weather events, including floods, are becoming more extreme and more frequent. The people of Queensland and Northern NSW especially know that from recent tragic experience. 

“When these events occur, people need access to the best available information, in real time. 

“Reliable flood warnings will help Australians prepare for moments of extreme weather. It will keep people safer as they happen. And being better prepared will, when the water recedes, help reduce the financial impact of flooding on families and businesses”. 

Comments attributable to the Minister for Emergency Management Murray Watt:

“We know that reliable early warnings are critical to keep people safe, and limit the physical impacts and costs of flood events. 

“The Albanese Government will ensure that the physical infrastructure used to gauge floods in high priority flood areas is reliable and up to scratch.
“We’ve seen communities hit by terrible disasters in recent years, and this investment will mean people are given time to protect themselves, their property and their land.

“Over several terrible flood seasons, the Coalition ignored calls to show national leadership and upgrade and maintain flood gauges in high-risk communities.

“The Albanese Government have heard the calls for a national solution and that is what we are delivering.”