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Flood dam engineer fined for lapsed registration

A DAM engineer, who was called away from a family holiday to Bundaberg to mitigate Brisbane's worst flood since the 1970s, has been fined $1500 and court costs for working unregistered.

John Lawrence Ruffini, 47, was a duty flood engineer responsible for the Wivenhoe and Somerset dams flood mitigation using modelling and other tools between January 7 and 17 when there was significant flooding in south-east Queensland.

Daniel Piggott, acting for the Queensland Board of Professional Engineers, told Brisbane Magistrates Court on Wednesday that Ruffini had been sent a renewal notice and reminder about his registration in 2010.

He said there was a legislative requirement that a person in charge of such responsibilities at the dams must be registered with the board.

Mr Piggott said this legislation was in place to ensure public safety during a flood event and to maintain "public confidence" in engineers undertaking such a task.

He asked the court to consider a fine between $1500 and $3000 as well as $2578 court costs.

Barrister Alan MacSporran said his client was in hospital just before his registration lapsed and then spent several months recovering.

He said Ruffini did not realise it had lapsed until it was revealed during a public inquiry into the floods.

"He let his registration lapse and he didn't take steps to renew it. He completely forgot about it," he said.

"It was the last thing on his mind when he was called up to help with this crisis."

Mr MacSporran said reviews found the dam engineers were "prudent and showed considerable insight" in the way they handled the crisis.

He said the inquiry commissioner regarded their work as "close to the best flood mitigation result for the January 2011 event".

Mr MacSporran said Ruffini, who began his engineering career in Toowoomba, had a full-time government job as water planning and coastal services director and only took on the dam role during emergencies.

He said the lapse was "a technical beach" and did not warrant a monetary penalty to send a message.

"It had absolutely no bearing on the work he lined up for and did perform in January last year," he said.

"There was never any potential for the public to be at risk.

"Mr Ruffini is a vastly experienced and qualified engineer.

"The role is ... one that carries huge responsibility. It's extremely onerous.

"On most occasions ... it is stressful because it's usually a crisis situation."

Topics:  court engineer flooding wivenhoe dam


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