Launceston was settled at the junction of three rivers - the North Esk, South Esk and Tamar Rivers. These are fed by a system of rivers and lakes that cover 14% of Tasmania.
Most of Invermay and some parts of Newstead sit within the flood plain, an area that will flood in a natural river system. In fact, Invermay's ground level is actually below the high tide, and if the flood levees were not in existence some parts of Invermay would be subject to water inundation twice a day with high tide.
Since Launceston's establishment, there have been 36 significant floods with 1929 reputedly the worst. However the years 1852, 1863 and 1893 are also recorded as very serious flood events.
The 1929 flood saw the evacuation of 4,000 people. 1,000 homes were inundated and 20 ultimately condemned. During the flood, 4,250 cumecs* of water flowed from the South Esk River and 567 cumecs flowed from the North Esk River, prompting authorities to seriously consider a new levee system.
Most recently in In June 2016, 2,375 cumecs of water from the South Esk River and approximately 800 cumecs from the North Esk River resulted in one of the largest floods in decades. The levees held, limiting damage; however some homes in Newstead, St Leonards and Nunamara were inundated and Invermay was threatened. Traffic was disrupted due to parts of the city being cut off. The City of Launceston relied heavily on social media to communicate regular updates and evacuation notices, which kept much of the community well-informed.
*Please note flood events are measured in cumecs, which refers to cubic meters per second, and are recorded by stream gauges.
Launceston Flood Map
Potential Flood Inundation Map(PDF, 558KB)
The Flood Levee Project began in the 1960s however the need for a system of levees was identified after the devastating 1929 flood.
A series of levees - some as high as four metres - were built as part of the Flood Levee Project to protect the low lying areas on the flood plain, separating the city from the rivers. These levees have now been repaired and rebuilt.
These levees require regular and ongoing maintenance. While they are unlikely to fail, the levees may be overtopped in an extreme flood event.
Any levee system may fail. Those in Launceston are no exception: they may collapse or water may flow over the top of them, and the adequacy of the system can't be guaranteed. Should the levees fail, some properties in Launceston may be affected by flood waters isolating the property or even rising above the floor level.
It's important the community is educated about this risk, preparedness, evacuations and recovery during a flood event.
Below are key suggestions but for detailed information on what to do before, during and after a flood event, please read our Flooding in Launceston brochure(PDF, 461KB).
- Monitor the Bureau of Meteorology for weather patterns and tune in to ABC Local Radio 91.7FM for updates
- Have an Emergency Kit prepared and stored in a waterproof storage box. This Kit should include items such as warm, waterproof clothing, blankets, non-perishable foods, bottled water, first aid kit, portable radio with spare batteries, candles, toiletries, rubber gloves and a waterproof bag for valuables
- Know where you'll go if you need to evacuate: the home of a family or friend, or evacuation centre
- Understand your insurance policy: are you covered for flood?
- Understand how to safely turn off your gas, electricity and water
- Check your property for its vulnerability (for example, do gaps beneath doors and windows need sealing and do you have plugs for all sinks and bathtubs?)
- Think about what you can move now: valuables and treasured items stored in plastic bags or waterproof containers
- Listen to ABC Local Radio 91.7FM and watch the City of Launceston's social media pages such as Facebook for regular updates and official evacuation notices
- Should you be required to evacuate your home, an evacuation siren will sound and emergency personnel will be active in the area
- Leave before flood waters arrive and lock your home
- Take your pets secured in a pet container, on a leash or muzzled
- Go to the home of a family or friend or to a Council-run Evacuation Centre
- Do not drive, swim, walk or wade in flood waters
- Never drink floodwater and wash your hands if you touch it
- Call your insurance company or landlord as soon as possible. The City of Launceston can provide information about hardship grants or charities that may be also able to assist
- If you return to your home or business, be alert, tread carefully in protective clothing and do not touch electricity sources until a qualifies electrician has checked all of these
- Once you have returned to your home or business, use a permanent ink pen to mark on a wall the maximum height of the floodwater
- Take photos of any flood damage to your home or business
- If you're unable to return to living in your home due to flood damage, the Department of Health and Human Services can help with temporary accommodation