Flood planning provisions

Brisbane City Plan 2014 (City Plan) has been developed by Brisbane City Council in consultation with the community to support a simple, fast and clear development assessment process. The plan guides how land in Brisbane can be used and developed to support economic growth, while protecting our city’s character and natural assets.

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Brisbane – development of a city built on a floodplain

Brisbane is a thriving, world class city with a subtropical climate. Like many cities around the world, for largely historical reasons, parts of Brisbane have been built on a floodplain, which makes flooding a natural part of our environment.

We will never be able to eliminate flooding in Brisbane but we can be a resilient city that copes well with flooding and meet those challenges through planning for future development.

There is potential for our city to evolve in a way that adapts to flooding and improves our capacity to live with flooding. This involves smart land use planning and better building design - City Plan applies both of these elements. 

What we learnt from the January 2011 flood

The 2011 flood demonstrated the importance of being flood aware and having the ability to recover from disasters. It also emphasised how our city must adapt to and manage flooding effectively.

Following the 2011 flood, Council implemented emergency town planning rules to guide development in suburbs affected by flooding (through the Temporary Local Planning Instrument 01/11 and 01/12) which included the following:

  • Setting floor levels in homes and apartments above either  the 2011 flood level or the defined Brisbane River flood  level, whichever is the higher.
  • Allowing houses in flood-prone areas to be built higher than standard buildings to protect homes from flooding.
  • Following feedback from the community, Council has now adopted these requirements into the City Plan.

Definitions

River flooding is caused when widespread, prolonged rain falls over the Brisbane River catchment area – causing high flows of water to rise and flow over our river’s banks. River flooding downstream can occur days after the rain has stopped.

Creek flooding is caused by heavy rainfall in the local catchments. It often flows quickly and can cause flash flooding within an hour of areas around creeks and waterways.

Local overland flow flooding is water that runs across the ground after heavy rain, and occurs very quickly. This is the most common type of flooding in our city.

Storm tide flooding is caused when wind from a storm pushes the ocean towards land causing higher than normal sea levels. The risk from storm tide or storm surge is increased during times of high tidal flooding and affects low-lying areas close to tidal waterways and shores.

A new approach to flood risk management

In 2012, Council released the Brisbane’s FloodSmart Future Strategy 2012-2031 that demonstrates how our city has a multi-level plan to respond to its flood risk. This strategy takes an integrated approach to managing flood risk through a co-ordinated mix of flood mitigation infrastructure, flood awareness and information, flood emergency management, land use planning and development control.

Flood overlay code in the City Plan ensures that future development contributes to creating a safe and flood-resilient city in the future.

The flood overlay code is part of the City Plan and categorises flood susceptibility into five areas – describing how future development might be affected by flooding.

The flood overlay code delivers a balanced outcome which recognises the need for new development but which deals with protecting the safety of the community and minimising property impacts from flooding – while not imposing unnecessary costs on the community. This is achieved by providing clear guidance for any future development in flood affected areas.

The flood overlay code helps business and industry to invest with confidence, knowing suitable development is properly located. It will enable business and industry to better understand the risk affecting their property when planning and designing for any future development. 

New flood overlay code restrictions

Council’s planning regulations have always included planning provisions to manage flood risk. over time our understanding of flood risk has increased and the Flood overlay code is another example of how Council manages new development in Brisbane.

The flood overlay code guides the future development of sites at risk of flooding with defined Flood Planning Areas (FPAs) shown on the Flood overlay map. These regulations will only apply to new developments (including extensions, rebuilds and expansions).

If you are planning to renovate or build, Council recommends you engage a professional to undertake a thorough assessment of all flood risks specific to your property. These regulations will not apply to existing buildings. These are flood planning provisions to manage flood risk for any future and new development in our city.

The flood overlay code in the City Plan does not change the zoning of properties in response to the January 2011 flood, or any other flood event.

Future growth and development in the city will be guided by the following planning principles.

  • Locate new growth areas where there are minimal flood constraints.

  • Locate land-uses to be consistent with the nature and degree of natural hazards.

  • Recognises that land in a floodplain is an important community, economic and environmental resource.

  • Ensure that where a flood hazard is able to be mitigated, new development is designed, sited and constructed to  protect the safety and amenity of users. 

The flood overlay code is part of City Plan - the flood planning provisions in the flood overlay code will only apply to future development. Council has developed the Flood Awareness Maps to provide residents with general information on flooding in Brisbane. If you would like more detail about flooding for your property, you can also download a FloodWise Property Report by visiting Council’s website.

Council has developed five Flood Planning Areas (FPAs) for Brisbane River and creek/waterway flooding to guide future building and development in flood prone areas. There is one FPA for local overland flow flooding. Storm tide flooding is mapped separately.

Improvements in flood modelling have increased our understanding of how floods behave, giving us better tools to guide future land use planning. We can tailor regulations to mitigate the flood risks property owners could face and avoid building critical infrastructure where the risk of flooding is higher. The FPAs are designed to recognise the susceptibility of flooding. Susceptibility is a combination of frequency of flooding, the flood depth and the speed at which the water is travelling.

Development regulations are tailored to each FPA. Planning controls are higher in areas when flood susceptibility is more frequent, and/or to a higher depth and/or in fast flowing water. For example, FPA1 is subject to the highest development assessment requirements for any future development within that area.

Council has produced maps that show each of the five FPAs. FPAs will continue to be refined and updated if better information becomes available through flood modelling. 

Flood planning area Description What does the code mean for development?
1 FPA1 Flooding is very likely and/or there may be very deep and/or very fast moving water. Any new development would be subject to the highest development assessment requirements. This area is generally best suited to environmental and recreation uses. 
2. FPA2 Flooding is likely and there may be deep and/or fast moving water. New development may be subject to additional development requirements to address flood impacts - such as being high-set with specialised stronger building design.
3 FPA3 Flooding is likely and there may be deep and/or moderate-fast moving water.  New development may be built in this area but may need modifications such as houses being built on stumps. 
4 FPA4 Flooding is likely and there may be shallow and/or slow moving water. New development that can mitigate flood impacts with slight building modifications may be allowed to be built in this area - such as meeting minimum floor heights.
5. FPA5 There is no recent history of flooding but there is potential for flooding.  No flood overlay code requirements apply to houses. New development such as essential community services like hospitals may be built in this area - by meeting minimum floor heights.
Local overland flow Water may rise quickly and move with speed but will recede quickly Minimum standards for floor heights apply to houses. Other development will be designed to not increase flooding impacts on neighbouring properties. 

More information

For more information about City Plan, and to access the interactive mapping tool, visit Council's website and search for Brisbane City Plan 2014 or phone Council on 07 3403 8888.

For flood information and advice about flood risk and taking action, and to check the FloodWise Property Report for building and development requirements, visit Council's website and search for Flooding in Brisbane or phone Council on 07 3403 8888.

If you would like to be kept up to date with future services and general planning and development in the city, you can register your details by emailing the team.

Disclaimer: The content of this information sheet is a summary and has been prepared to assist the reader to understand the City Plan. Please refer to the full City Plan document, entitled Brisbane City Plan 2014, on Council’s website for further detail.

03 July 2017