Cairns Flooding

Flooding Cairns Esplanade
Flooding Cairns Esplanade
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Champion of the Underdog » Cairns » Cairns Flooding

Cairns Flooding

A Tropical City

Cairns flooding should surprise no-one. After all, Cairns is a tropical city in Far North Queensland. Much of Cairns City is also low-lying, making it vulnerable to flooding during the wet season. Now Climate Change is making things even worse.

Storm surges at times of high rainfall, especially during tropical cyclones, can create an emergency situation where lives are at risk.

Climate Change and Cairns Flooding

The vulnerability of Cairns to flooding is increasing dramatically. In addition to the regular torrential rains, a climate change double whammy is facing the city. Climate change is leading to both more intense flooding and sea-level rise. In this environment, a significant storm surge during an intense tropical cyclone, could cause massive loss of life.

Cairns Flood Maps

Cairns flood map
Cairns flood map

Maps are readily available showing areas of Cairns that are flood prone and need to be evacuated during natural disasters.

South Cairns has a fairly good degree of flood immunity. However, inner city suburbs and parts of the northern beaches may well be described as a disaster waiting to happen.

Low Lying Suburbs

St Joseph's Flooding
St Joseph’s Flooding

In the wet season, often people are aware of flood vulnerability in suburbs such as Portsmith, Bungalow, Cairns North and the CBD. However, they are not as aware of the possibility of flooding in other low-lying parts of Cairns. The suburbs of Parramatta Park, Westcourt and Manunda are also highly vulnerable to sea-level rise and flooding, as this picture of Manunda flooding shows. As result of Cairns flooding history and rising sea-levels, some Cairns residents in low-lying areas may need to evacuate their homes. The best place to obtain advice on this is the Cairns Disaster Dashboard.

Barron River Delta

Council implemented a flood mitigation scheme in 2009. It was designed it to help protect Lake Placid, Caravonica and Kamerunga residents from future flooding of the Barron River. It provides protection when the river breaks its banks with a 1- in-15 to 1-in-20 year flood. A fact sheet for residents explained, “The lower Barron Delta starts to flood long before this, with access from the Captain Cook Highway disrupted by a 1-in-5 year flood event”.

More recently, there has been mapping to show the impacts of sea-level rise in the future. As a result, this sea level rise mapping indicates areas that will form part of the intertidal zone. Clearly the impacts of king tides and climate change will be devastating.

Cairns flooding
Cairns flooding

The Barron Delta Sea Level Rise maps show a new intertidal zone. This includes previously flood immune land, which will become flood prone as a result of sea-level rise and more intense climate driven rainfall events.

Cairns Flooding History


Edmonton flooding in 1977
Edmonton Queensland 1977

Cairns Southern Suburbs are more protected than the city’s inner suburbs, but they can also sustain flooding.

Flooding of 1977 was addressed by drainage work by the local council. In addition, newer suburbs in West Edmonton and Mount Peter have very good levels of flood immunity. This should prevent any significant flooding in these locations.


Flooding maps talk about Q100. This is the best estimate of whether or not a property will flood (on average) more than once every 100 years.

Does Gordonvale Flood?

Yes, Gordonvale does flood. However, few areas of Gordonvale are likely to flood more than once every hundred years. Cairns Regional Council has produced the Gordonvale flood map to show you if your property is vulnerable to flooding.

Climate Change

Climate change from a warming planet is leading to rising sea-levels. This is largely a result of increasing meltwater from glaciers and ice sheets and thermal expansion of seawater as it warms. This is bad news for Cairns which has a densely inhabited coastal zone.

People buying property in either the red, orange or yellow zones (see above flood map) should seriously consider flooding and storm water inundation before completing a purchase. It may also be very difficult to obtain affordable insurance in these areas.

People should remember that those areas that are currently vulnerable to flooding and stormwater inundation, will only become more so as sea levels continue to rise as a result of climate change.

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By Rob Pyne

Quadriplegic, Former MP, Councillor & Political Campaigner: Rob is an Eco Socialist who shares ways to survive & fight capitalism. #socialism #championoftheunderdog Occupation: Online Editor Employer: Champion of the Underdog! Book: Struggle and Resistance in the Far North


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