Parliamentary flood report finds SES and Resilience NSW failed Lismore, northern NSW communities – Michmutters

Parliamentary flood report finds SES and Resilience NSW failed Lismore, northern NSW communities

A parliamentary inquiry has found the government agencies in charge of preparing for and responding to major flooding in New South Wales this year failed affected communities.

Seven people died and thousands of people were displaced or cut off when floodwaters devastated the Northern Rivers region twice since late February.

Despite calls from authorities to stand down, residents took to boats and jet skis to rescue each other from rooftops, and took with them axes and other equipment to cut open roof cavities in which people were stuck.

Led by Labor’s Walt Secord, the parliamentary committee took evidence at a series of hearings across the state’s north as well as Western Sydney, where floods also became deadly.

“The committee found that the [State Emergency ServiceĀ and Resilience NSW] failed to provide leadership and effective coordination in the community’s greatest time of need,” Mr Secord told parliament as he tabled the report.

A man with an "I Survived Lismore 2022" shirt at a flood meeting inquiry.
The NSW Parliamentary Flood Inquiry held hearings on the north coast in May.(ABC North Coast: Bruce MacKenzie)

The report found that information from the State Emergency Service (SES) and Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) was “incorrect and out of date”, leaving the community with “no other option but to ignore government advice and save lives”.

It made 37 recommendations, including that the SES, the state’s lead agency in a flood event, undergo a restructure to harness local knowledge and employ more salaried staff.

It urged the weather bureau to review its rain data infrastructure and flood modeling tools.

The report found the state agencies and BOM were “not prepared for, nor did they comprehend the scale” of the floods and that “some agencies were criticized for treating it as a nine to five business operation”.

Lismore resident Billy Curry was one of many in the “tinny army” who took it upon themselves to rescue people the day his home town went under.

He agreed there did not seem to be enough resources to assess and respond to the situation, and that without the impromptu volunteers “the community would have been in a lot of trouble”.

“There were scenes there where you were ducking under power lines and street lights in a boat,” he said.

“We lifted 64 older people from an elderly aged care place into a boat, so that’s something you don’t forget.”

Man in gray t-shirt, curly blond hair, unsmiling
Billy Curry wants a database created to better manage willing and able volunteers.(ABC North Coast: Bruce MacKenzie)

Mr Curry said he wanted the State Emergency Service to adopt a database of volunteers who had lifesaving skills and equipment such as jet skis, who could be quickly briefed via SMS in an emergency.


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