When severe flooding hit the Lockyer Valley on 10 January 2011, Jamie Simmonds watched the devastation unfold on his television at his Samford home. The epicentre of the disaster was the small town of Grantham, where 12 people lost their lives after a powerful wall of water swept through, obliterating all in its path.
At that point Jamie didn’t know how instrumental he would become in helping the town recover. In the days following the flood former Lockyer Valley mayor Steve Jones requested Jamie’s assistance and appointed him director of the Strengthening Grantham Project. Together they took on the ambitious task of moving residents away from the floodplain and up onto a hill.
“Steve’s idea to move the town came about the morning after the flood,” Jamie recalls. “The idea was that we couldn’t build back where all this devastation occurred. How can someone put their child to bed at night in the same place where someone lost their life?”
The first house was ready just 11 months after the flood event and the project proved to be a huge success. An Australian first land swap initiative was implemented where residents’ land on the floodplain was traded for a similar sized lot up on the hill, utilising a ballot system and without the need to exchange funds.
Jamie continued to work alongside Steve Jones up until the former mayor’s death in 2016. He wouldn’t return to the town for three years until an American professor requested someone show him the relocation. It was this professor who would convince Jamie to write down his experience and share his successes with other communities.
“He said I needed to write a research paper about Grantham because there’s no manual for relocating towns. Relocations are becoming a bigger thing now with more natural disasters occuring,” Jamie explains. That research paper quickly turned into a memoir, Rising from the flood: Moving the Town of Grantham, and the story of Grantham is now being shared globally.
For more information or to purchase a book visit www.jamiesimmonds.com