Thursday, May 30, 2024

Flood inquiry finds local government support lacking

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed the release of the NSW Parliamentary Inquiry’s report on the Response to Major Flooding Across NSW in 2022.

The inquiry found that emergency services and NSW Government agencies were unprepared and did not comprehend the scale of the February/March floods, which caused widespread devastation and damage, particularly in the Northern Rivers and Hawkesbury regions.

Crucially, the inquiry supported LGNSW’s view in finding that local councils – especially in the Northern Rivers region – will need significant support to repair private and public roads affected by flooding, potholes and landslips.

The inquiry’s report made a raft of recommendations to ensure NSW communities are better prepared and more resilient to respond to extreme weather events, many of which aligned with those made by LGNSW in its submission to the inquiry.

Key recommendations include:

  • That the NSW Government significantly increase its investment in flood mitigation and preparation, including its support of local governments to do the same, by increasing ongoing, long-term funding and access to technical guidance and assistance for local councils and ensuring that land-use planning and development takes a risk-based approach;
  • That the NSW Government consider a restructure of the NSW State Emergency Service with consideration to realigning the focus of the organisation to harness local knowledge and networks;
  • That the NSW Government advocate through the National Cabinet to widen eligibility under the Disaster Funding Recovery Arrangements to allow local councils to build back better;
  • That the NSW Government work with local governments to identify alternative routes to vulnerable roads, and that the NSW and Australian Governments fund the construction of these important routes to improve evacuation and access options in times of disaster; and
  • That the NSW Government prioritise support for the full restoration of sewage treatment facilities on the Richmond River, for the benefit of communities in the Northern Rivers region.

LGNSW President, Darriea Turley said it was essential that the NSW Government act on the inquiry’s key recommendations to ensure councils are well positioned to manage any extreme weather events that may occur in the future.

“LGNSW’s submission made it clear that the scale of natural disasters in recent years required a substantial shift where the future focus embodies a greater emphasis on resilience and adaptation to ensure communities are better prepared for future disasters,” Cr Turley said.

“It is heartening that many of the inquiry’s recommendations echo those made by LGNSW in our submission and recognise councils have a central role in emergency management – both now and into the future – and should be supported by other government agencies accordingly.

“We look forward to further discussions with the NSW Government on this issue, including how we can continue to work together to plan, fund, and resource the work of councils to not only manage their communities’ capacity to recover and rebuild from disasters but also build future resilience.”

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