"Yesterday, as the smell in the luxury dwellings at Tennyson Reach, home to tennis greats including Ashley Cooper, rose with the temperature and humidity, owners wondered how the planning controls that were meant to regulate development could have gone so wrong.
Several said they were assured before buying that the ground level would not flood unless the Brisbane River reached a mark of 8.4m, well above the 4.46m at which it peaked last Thursday after a massive discharge of 645,000 megalitres from Wivenhoe Dam on Tuesday.
Between cleaning up and moving out yesterday, several owners said they needed explanations from Mirvac and the council about their true flood immunity and whether the development, completed less than two years ago, should have been approved, given its history of inundation.
The flooding at Tennyson Reach is one small part of a major problem for Brisbane City Council and the Queensland government, as the losses of owners, the liability of developers, and the policies of governments combine in a perfect storm of recrimination and confusion. The residential precinct went through all the council's usual approvals process after the Beattie government sought tenders to make something glorious from the site of the abandoned and obsolete power station.
Apartment owner Chrissie Buchanan, who bought in June 2009 with her husband, Sam, who is a quadriplegic, has had damaged floors, walls and cabinets. She said she was fortunate to have insurance and was in a lot better position than many in Brisbane.
"The things that have been damaged are easily replaced," Ms Buchanan said. "There are people who have lost their businesses and houses. I feel for people who are a lot worse off than ourselves."
She said flooding risk was "not an issue" that was canvassed when she and her husband bought the property. "You never believe it's going to happen to you," she said.
Keith George, who paid $2.25 million for his ground-floor apartment 18 months ago, said he had waist-level water throughout his property. As a result, he will have to rip up floors and carpets, rebuild walls, and most of the apartment's cabinets will have to be replaced. "I'm going to have to spend at least $100,000 to replace the cabinetry," he said. "We won't be back in here for months."
Mr George said the flood risk never came up when he was buying the property, partly because City Hall had approved the development.
"And I always believed the Wivenhoe would not let the Brisbane River come up," he said.
Another resident, Julie Savage, said most people living in the complex were not too concerned on Tuesday night when other parts of the city started to evacuate their homes.
"I got the impression everyone was relaxed because it could withstand a flood of 8.4m, so it would all be fine," she said.
It is not only residents on the ground floor who are affected, with those on the many levels above unable to return home because there is no power and no lifts working. "They were saying 12 weeks until they can return, but it might be eight," Mr George said.
Mirvac Development Queensland chief executive Matthew Wallace, who inspected the development yesterday, said the priority was to work with the body corporate to get the buildings reinstated, and "get peoples' lives and properties back together".
The flooding hit the apartments 12 hours before the peak in Brisbane of 4.46m. It is believed the body corporate does not have flood insurance.
Several owners who bought their apartments before the global financial crisis had looked for loopholes to litigate a way out of their contracts before settlement, but failed after filing actions in the District Court. The irony is that being misled over the level of their flood immunity might have provided a perfect exit.
After successfully defending itself against some residents' claims that it misrepresented the quality of the river views, as well as a host of technical legal arguments surrounding the contract documents, Mirvac said the original buyers had to meet, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars in default interest and associated costs."
Mirvac Group said its Waterfront Newstead development had experienced some basement flooding, while its Tennyson Reach building had basement and ground floor inundation.
Mirvac added that the Brisbane floods were having a limited impact on its residential projects.