(13.10.2015) Commission of Inquiry: Grantham Quarry Not to Blame

The Grantham Floods Commission of Inquiry presented its report to the Queensland Premier on 8 October 2015. Walter Sofronoff QC, the Commissioner appointed to oversee the Inquiry, concluded that Grantham Quarry, owned and operated by Wagner Investments Pty Ltd, did not cause or materially contribute to the flood waters which swept through the town of Grantham on 10 January 2011.

The Commission’s full report is available here.

Background Facts

Grantham FloodsThe flooding in the Toowoomba and the Lockyer Valley on 10 January 2011 killed 21 people, 12 of them from Grantham. It was one of the most deadly natural disasters ever to hit Queensland.

The heavy rainfall which fell through December 2010 and in the first week of January 2011 saturated catchments in the Lockyer Valley. The flooding in Grantham came about as a result of the development of 2 storm cells over the Lockyer Valley during which, over 2 hours, 90mm (approximately 3.5 inches) of rain fell.

The intense rainfall produced a torrent of water that surged down Lockyer Creek which caught the people of the Lockyer Valley by surprise.

Commission’s Terms of Reference

Wagner Investments Pty Ltd acquired the land on which the Grantham Quarry was located in November 1998. Wagner Quarries Operations Pty Ltd thereafter commenced operating the Quarry. The Quarry provided a significant economic contribution to the Lockyer Valley.

During the Quarry’s operation, stockpiles of material had been placed around the Quarry’s pit, forming what were, in effect, 2 embankments.

Following the flooding, members of the Grantham community were concerned that the Quarry’s operations, and the material which had built up, had caused a significant alteration to the natural landscape which had caused or contributed to the flooding.

Accordingly, the Commission’s terms of reference included an inquiry as to whether any natural or made-made features of the landscape in Grantham could have altered or contributed to the flooding or whether the existence or breach of the Grantham Quarry caused or contributed to the flooding (or any damage caused by it).

Conclusion of Commission

The Commission considered in detail eyewitness evidence given by members of the Grantham community, as well as expert hydrological and geotechnical reports and computer models. The eyewitness evidence makes for harrowing reading.

Ultimately, on the consensus of the experts who gave evidence, the Commission concluded that the Grantham Quarry did not cause or materially continue to the flooding which affected Grantham.

It was concluded that the only effect that the Quarry had was to marginally increase the water level immediately upstream of the Quarry (by about 20 centimetres) and to slightly delay, by a few minutes, the commencement of the flooding downstream.

In a somewhat sobering statement, the Commissioner concluded his findings with:

Quarry or no quarry, railway line or no railway line, if there is ever another sudden dump of water in the upper catchment of the Lockyer Creek of the order of that which fell on 10 January 2011, the same thing will happen again

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