Friday, 17 June 2022

Three months after devastating extreme flooding on the NSW North Coast it appears that a co-ordinated effort to prepare state emergency services for the next extreme flood has not even begun

Lismore City and environs, 28 February 2022
IMAGE: Life Flight Australia

The NSW Legislative Council Select Committee Inquiry on the Response to Major Flooding across New South Wales in 2022 held a public hearing at Room 814-815, in Parliament House, Sydney on 14 June 2021.

This public hearing took evidence from expert witnesses in relation to events in Northern NSW during the period February-March 2022.

Hearing transcripts are not yet available.

However, here are mainstream and social media responses to evidence given by state emergency response agencies.


ABC News, 16 June 2022:

The chairman of a parliamentary flood inquiry has accused the NSW government and Service NSW of running a "cruel hoax" on financial support for flood victims.

Service NSW faced tough questions on why fewer than 20 per cent of applications for a 16-week rental support program had been paid out.

The inquiry heard 11,667 applications for the grant have been received.

About 1,900 have been approved but 7,467 have been deemed ineligible.

The inquiry heard just $18 million had been paid out from a $248 million grant program due to close in nine days.

Catherine Ellis, an executive director at Service NSW, told the inquiry applicants were typically given 28 days to provide documentation to prove they were eligible.

But inquiry chairman Walt Secord questioned what allowances Service NSW was making to help people who had lost paperwork and electronics to floodwaters.

"Isn't simply being in the community that had the worst flood in NSW enough?" he said to Ms Ellis.

"I put it to you that flood support and support from this government is a cruel hoax and that you have no intention of providing support."

Ms Ellis said that Service NSW assessed applications on the policy and guidelines that were set…..

Earlier in the hearing, the SES and other marine-based agencies were questioned about the rescue efforts during the height of the floods.

SES Commissioner Carlene York was asked why civilians were directed not to conduct flood rescues in their own boats.

"[There is] rubble, refuse, very swift-flowing water, contaminated water," she said.

"Going out is very dangerous so I have an obligation to try and keep the community safe."

The so-called "tinnie army" ignored directions from SES not to enter the water and has been credited with hundreds of rescues across the Northern Rivers region.

NSW Maritime was also asked why it did not participate in more flood rescues.

Executive director Mark Hutchings said his agency was not responsible or equipped for swift-water rescues.

"Operating in flood waters is the most dangerous, perilous thing that you can do," he said.

"As a government agency you would not recommend, nor would you deploy, untrained staff in inappropriate vessels into that environment.

"But Aussies will do what Aussies will do."

Mr Hutchings told the inquiry he could be charged and come before the Coroners Court if he sent his staff into dangerous conditions and something went wrong.

Mr Fitzsimmons spent most of the day in front of the inquiry as it examined the immediate emergency response and recovery and rebuilding plans.

The agency was formed in response to the Black Summer bushfires but has faced criticism throughout the inquiry for its performance.

Mr Fitzsimmons bristled at criticisms put to him by the inquiry that his staff treated the emergency as a typical nine-to-five job.

"We're not a 24-hour organisation, we don't have thousands of personnel, [but] we've been doing extraordinary hours and running after-hours arrangements," he said.

"I've had some staff sleeping in their vehicles overnight close to evacuation centres and other areas where they're providing support."

Today is the last day of the inquiry's scheduled hearings.

A report with recommendations is due to be handed down by August 9.

AAP News, 15 June 2022:

Labor MP Penny Sharpe said North Coast victims had been worn down by the bureaucracy.

"The level of frustration and distress as a result because they (residents) are being asked for paperwork they no longer have is extraordinary," she said.

"We've had people crying in front of us because they're being asked to provide the same documentation five times they don't have because their house or business has washed away.

"I just cannot overstate the level of trauma in the community ...They're in desperate circumstances in terms of housing."

Mr Secord described the slow drip of rental support provided to displaced residents as "a cruel hoax".

Ms Sharpe also levelled criticisms at the SES for not effectively communicating with flood-affected communities over which rescue agency would take the lead, describing the response as "confused"…..

ABC Radio, Australia Wide program,

A New South Wales parliamentary inquiry examining the devastating floods from earlier in the year, is hearing evidence from emergency services and non-government organisations on how the response to natural disasters can be improved. The inquiry has been told its madness to have a volunteer organisation as the lead response agency to a major disaster. Leighton Drury, from the Fire Brigade Employees' Union, told today's hearing the State Government must rethink the strategy that sees the SES take control of floods, storms and tsunami events. starting at 1:06 mins & finishes at 9:15 mins.

Twitter, 15 June 2022







Response to Major Flooding across New South Wales in 2022 public hearing transcripts can be found at:

Video recordings of public hearings are at:

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