Leadership vacuum left people struggling – flood report

ABOVE: Flood rescues in February this year. Photo: Contributed

Susanna Freymark

The report on the floods is in and it is a riveting and sobering read.

With 21 findings and 37 recommendations, the NSW Legislative Council Select Committee has tackled the government’s response to the floods, the operations of the SES and the difficulties of getting grants from Resilience NSW.

The Response to major flooding across New South Wales in 2022 report was tabled in the Upper House today, Tuesday, August 9.

The report outlines many of the failures of the NSW Government and the poor performance of the leaders of SES and Resilience NSW.

The committee found that the SES and Resilience NSW failed to provide leadership and effective coordination in the community’s time of greatest need.

SES report: FAIL

It was clear that the centralisation of the SES and a shortage of volunteers hindered the ability of the SES to lead the emergency response. In many cases, flood warnings and evacuation information were out of date, inaccurate and confusing.

Many in the community felt that they had no choice but to conduct their own rescues in dangerous conditions because many calls for assistance to 000 and the SES went unanswered.

Put simply, community members were forced to save themselves, neighbour saving neighbour.

The committee said while this is “an admirable testament to these communities, it is both unreasonable and undesirable as a matter of public policy”.

For these reasons, the NSW Government should consider restructuring the SES to ensure that it uses local knowledge and networks and coordinates more closely with other rescue agencies.

The SES also needed more resources including boosting recruitment of volunteers.

Resilience NSW report: FAIL

After the flood disaster, the State Government failed to implement a streamlined grants process.

This meant applicants were repeatedly interviewed and had to re-live their experiences, leading to further frustration and trauma as part of what was supposed to be a support process.

Resilience NSW delivered some of the biggest failures of the government response to the floods.

People repeatedly expressed frustration and were confused about the role of Resilience NSW.

The committee found that the State Government failed to comprehend the scale of the floods and treated the disaster response as a “nine to five” business operation – when it was one of the greatest natural disasters in generations.

Resilience NSW was established almost two years ago yet the organisation failed to coordinate with community groups leading the flood recovery.

Resilience NSW should be abolished, the report said.

Another independent inquiry led by Mary O’Kane and Mick Fuller has been delivered to the NSW Government but has not yet been released to the public.

Read the Response to major flooding across New South Wales in 2022 report

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