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2022 NSW Flood Inquiry
20 May 2022
Dear Ms O’Kane and Mr Fuller
I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the 2022 NSW Flood Inquiry. The recent floods in the Northern Rivers have seriously impacted already highly impacted communities. Coming on the back of the 2017 floods, the 2019 Black Summer bushfires, and two years of the Covid19 pandemic, the floods this year have devastated our communities. People lost their lives, thousands of people have been traumatised and displaced, and many are suffering and will suffer from long-term mental health impacts, as well as poverty and homelessness. There were 3,396 homes made uninhabitable across the region and another 6,708 were inundated, worsening the existing housing crisis. People are living in cars, caravans, tents, garage floors, friend’s houses, or sleeping rough. The recovery across the electorate is ongoing and will be long term, not just the physical and economic rebuilding but flood-related emotional trauma.
As the Member for Ballina, my office has been kept busy with requests for assistance and information from constituents directly affected by the flooding events, as well as businesses that have suffered damage and losses. Constituents and small business owners have sought advice through my office about flood clean-up, temporary accommodation, and how to access financial support. During the first two weeks of the flood, my office provided rescue and evacuation information to our communities. I met with distressed and fearful people during and after the evacuation phase, and I have been kept up to date each week with the progress of the State government’s recovery plan, including the establishment of a Reconstruction Corporation.
My submission will focus on gaps and mis-steps in terms of rescue and recovery. Please note that in my discussion of combat agency response I am not at all critical of any member of the 14-plus combat agencies that assisted our communities. I want to highlight gaps and problems, so that solutions and preparedness can be identified and worked for. As elected representatives we need to support people in our communities to adapt to future supercharged storms and extreme weather events, including bushfires. We need to see planning reforms that inhibit development in weather and flood vulnerable localities, explore flood mitigation, refine local government responses to extreme weather events, resource councils, plan for housing relief in the Northern Rivers, deliver genuine, long-term mental health supports, improve telecommunications, address the shortage of rescue volunteers, and tackle problems in the transition from incident response to recovery.