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Byron Shire
April 20, 2024

Editorial – Will the NSW government act on disasters, or just manage them?

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People inspecting inundation of floodwater inside a dwelling. Photo from the The Select Committee on the response to Major Flooding across NSW in 2022

There are some takeaways from the latest flood report, which was released last week. 

The Select Committee on the response to Major Flooding across NSW in 2022, headed by chair Walt Secord (Labor) painted a picture of unprepared agencies, such as Resilience NSW, and documented a lack of planning.

It’s a different report from the ‘independent flood report’, which the NSW Liberal/Nationals government sat on until August 17, despite receiving it over two weeks ago. 

This latest report is 200 pages while the ‘independent’ one is expected to be 700.

There were a myriad of contributing factors that led to the 2022 flood disaster, but let’s have look at one – the BoM. Flood-affected residents would recall how wrong the Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) were with its predictions on the night of February 27, 2022. 

Fflooding on Tamarind Avenue, Bogangar. Photo from the The Select Committee on the response to Major Flooding across NSW in 2022

From page 36: ‘On why the extent of flooding was not predicted, Ms Jane Golding, Manager Hazard Preparedness and Response, BoM, advised that broadly “the signals were there in the atmosphere and we were communicating that there was a heightened risk for a significant flood”, but that “it’s very difficult to predict river heights in days ahead of a flood” as it often depends on where the rain will fall. She added that up until the Sunday evening, different forms of computer modelling available at the time weren’t “forecasting those extraordinary rainfall rates that we received”. 

‘Ms Golding agreed that there would be benefit in having on-the-ground local knowledge feeding into flood predictions and monitoring. 

‘She also noted that after flooding events, the BoM reviews data infrastructure around catchments to identify if there is a need for more gauges. It also reviews classifications to ensure whether they were appropriate, given the impact these classifications can have on communities.

‘With regard to gauges that the BoM relies on, Ms Golding explained that the governance of flood data assets, such as gauges, is subject to an intergovernmental agreement with split ownership between local, State and federal governments. Of the 1,500 flood data assets in NSW, the BoM owns 885. Ms Golding added that responsibility for these assets lies with the asset owner’.

Landslip on Tyalgum Road. Photo from The Select Committee on the response to Major Flooding across NSW in 2022.

Recommendations

Within the report’s 37 recommendations were simple, obvious improvements, such as ‘increasing ongoing, long-term funding and access to technical guidance and assistance for local councils’. 

Other recommendations include ‘improving the management of drainage channels’ on private and public land, and ‘ensuring that land-use planning and development takes a risk-based approach’.

Ensuring robust telecoms infrastructure is also suggested. 

Additionally, the report suggests ‘That the NSW government invest in the restoration of the Wilsons and Richmond Rivers to include riparian restoration, water quality and river health improvement’.

The Brunswick River needs restoration too! Unfortunately that river was not included in the report. 

It flooded much of Mullum, and likely contributed to flooding in Ocean Shores, SGB and New Brighton. 

Hans Lovejoy, editor

News tips are welcome: [email protected]


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2 COMMENTS

  1. In a way, Lismore is like a microcosm for the impacts of climate change. Keep doing BAU for too long, and the cost of remediation will become cost prohibitive. Lismore should never have beed developed on the floodplain. It was. For a long time rebuilding after a flood was ‘affordable’, as the intervals between major floods were long and development of the area was slow.
    Then the intervals became shorter, more and more buildings were built and affected by floods – then the monster flood hit.

    Global climate change was known for at least 50 years, but nothing other than tokenistic measures were taken. Every decade we say that we have to turn things around in the next decade or the worldwide disasters will become unmanageable. This is where we are now.
    The reason that the Perrotet government is so hesitant to pay for relocating every affected building is this: Which town will be next? Who can pay for relocating milions of people, businesses and infrastructure, going forward? No one can, and they know it.
    The train has left the station.
    Being an engineer I still have a sliver of hope that engineering, one day, will be able to save the planet. The hope is remote, but still there – not for me, but for my kids and grand kids.
    It will come at a huge cost, and may not be able to save everyone. Time to buy a ticket!

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