Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Preparedness must start now ahead of future flooding disasters

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Tweed Shire Mayor welcomes findings and recommendations of Parliamentary flood inquiry

Tweed Shire Council, Media Release, 11 August 2022

Mayor of Tweed Shire Chris Cherry said it was crucial government, associated agencies and the community learn from the findings of a major flood inquiry and focus on ways to improve our response to disasters in the future.

Cr Cherry has welcomed the findings and recommendations of the Select Committee on the Response to Major Flooding across NSW in 2022, which was tabled in the NSW Parliament on Tuesday.

The 178-page report made 21 key findings and a further 37 recommendations following a series of public hearings and forums across the state in the months after the February-March flood.

Mayor of Tweed Shire Chris Cherry, who appeared before the Upper House Committee when it met in Murwillumbah on 1 June, said it was important to focus on improvements for the future. Council also made a written submission to the inquiry following its adoption at the May Council meeting.

“We are pleased the Select Committee took on board much of the detail of our submission, including our suggestion to combine response agencies into one unit for natural disasters,” Cr Cherry said.

“The Tweed is a place of striking natural beauty with our internationally-significant natural environment a drawcard for those who live here. However, along with that comes the understanding the Tweed Valley is subject to major flooding and we must make sure we are better prepared to respond in the future.”

The most populous local government area in the Northern Rivers, Tweed Shire was severely hit by the record February-March flood, with more than 2,100 homes damaged and an estimated 1,600 residents still displaced by the event. Council estimates the damage to public infrastructure, including roads and Council buildings, will cost up to $100 million to repair.

Cr Cherry said she was very supportive of the Committee’s recommendation to ensure a much clearer pathway, including community education, on what to do in the event of a flood in the future.

“Just like we have fire drills at school or in the workplace, we need to have drills in our community so everyone knows what they have to do, what they have to take with them, where they can park their cars, and so on,” she said.

“This makes sense and we need to act on it before the next wet season.”

However, Cr Cherry said she was disappointed the Committee did not provide any recommendations or detail for the possibility of land swaps or voluntary house purchase programs other than to say they should be considered.

“As a Council, Tweed has strongly advocated for government support to help residents move off the floodplain – this was one of the main recommendations of our submission to the inquiry,” Cr Cherry said.

“Residents need answers now as to what options are available to them moving forward. Should they stay and repair their homes or seek compensation and move off the floodplain? We strongly support the latter.”

Cr Cherry was supportive of the recommendation the NSW Government overhaul the way it conducts its financial support process for flood-affected people so as not to further traumatise victims.

“I am pleased the Committee has included the community’s call for having a more streamlined process for allowing natural disaster victims to only have to tell their story once and then it is in the system, rather than having to relive the trauma with each new agency,” she said.

“Everything we can do to ensure people can access help as quickly as possible, that they have somewhere safe to go, and that we can reduce the impact of these events on our communities both socially and economically into the future is a positive step.”

The Select Committee on the Response to Major Flooding across NSW in 2022 report can be viewed on the Parliament of NSW Committees page.

View Council’s submission to the inquiry on the Flood Recovery Dashboard.

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