The recent flood recovery meeting held in Mullumbimby on May 11 received criticism from some locals who felt that it had been hijacked by Our Earth Online rather than dealing with the immediate needs of the community currently in crisis while others felt it successfully achieved its aims.
Confusion arose as flood recovery meetings had been promised by council to local community members, particularly those in badly affected areas such as Billinudgel, to directly address the issues arising from the recent flooding.
Following the meeting local business owner Rebecca Brewin from BiIlli Auto spoke to the mayor, Simon Richardson, highlighting the need for more direct and immediate action that is needed in the community.
‘He told us that he knew that there would be two different groups of people that would attend the meeting, and conceded it was the incorrect format.
‘I emailed Simon the next morning and he said he was happy to arrange a meeting within a month.
‘I replied further to reiterate the need for urgency when scheduling the meeting as six weeks have already past,’ continued Rebecca.
Questions surrounding council responsibility for flood mitigation, flood planning and warning and the role of the SES are some of the issues that Billinudgel residents and businesses have requested council respond to.
‘We had complied a document with questions pertaining to Council’s obligation to its constituents in regard to its Flood Plain Management studies with the aim of council fulfilling its obligation and duty of care to those in not only our area but within the shire that Simon says he will address at the meeting that is to be advised,’ continued Rebecca.
Simon Richardson has said he had raised concerns with One Earth Online prior to the meeting about possible confusion as to the purpose of the meeting.
‘What was meant to be a meeting about resilience with a flood event reference seemed to be increasingly advertised as a flood debrief. This caused confusion and some disappointment. The organisers meant well and this mistake was certainly not deliberate by them,’ he said.
‘For many residents of Billinudgel, they were expecting a far more detailed look into Council’s responses and I have undertaken to hold a public meeting in the very near future in the Billinudgel area to do exactly that.’
Richardson said that ‘I support the ideas behind the our earth project and have attended a few meetings, however, am not directly involved.
‘The meeting was conceived by Our Earth. Council was requested to help with paying for the hall and providing some nibbles etc-which we did. We do this for many groups.
‘By the end of the night, many great ideas as to ways our community can become more resilient were shared and I look forward to beginning the process of developing these further.’
Organiser Christopher Dean acknowledged that there were some people attending that had expected a different agenda and format.
‘We understand the level of emotion and disillusionment by many who felt neglected and unheard,’ said Dean.
‘Unfortunately this meeting was not designed to deal with this directly. It was clear that one outcome we must focus on is better management for those seriously traumatised by the flood to have effective support, help and counselling as well as practical aid administered fast.’
Around 75 people attended the meeting and Dean felt positive that they had fulfilled the objectives of the meeting.
‘A key theme that came through often was the need for solidarity and close relations between neighbours so that best local ideas could be acted upon rapidly,’ continued Dean.
‘Best information gathered on the spot and over the years could be shared with the media and professionals in real time to keep local issues accurate and up to date. Community solidarity was at the heart of resilience planning.’