The NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet was in Lismore at Southern Cross University this morning at 11am releasing the NSW Independent Flood Inquiry where he accepted every recommendation put forward. The Flood Inquiry was led by Professor Mary O’Kane AC and Michael Fuller APM and released the day after the Bureau of Meteorology declared a La Niña ‘Alert’ warning of the potential for a third consecutive year of extreme rainfall and flooding.
There remain ‘over 1,000 people who are living out of their homes or are homeless as a result of these events,’ said the Premier.
‘We’ve accepted every recommendation. The focus of this government will be to implement these recommendations as quickly as possible.’
The recommendations come in in two parts, firstly on how emergency management evolves in NSW and secondly, how the state looks to prepare and recover from events of this scale both in the short term and the long term, and what the implications are for the state, explained the Premier.
In relation to emergency management they are:
- Establish a permanent State Emergency Operations Centre to be led by a new Deputy Police Commissioner in NSW.
- Reshaping Resilience NSW into a leaner Recovery NSW that will focus on recovering for the first 100 days after a flood event.
- Establishing a new Cabinet committee known as ‘Task Force Hawk’ made up of senior Cabinet ministers and public servants. It will be a permanent committee ready to respond to a major disaster at any time.
- Merging the back office of the RFS and SES. ‘There will be no change to front-facing RFS and SES,’ said the Premier.
- Community training – programs offering general members of the community training from the RFS and SES.
- That local communities are set up with knowledge and understanding of evacuation centres, recovery centres, and who is responsible for their set up and running.
The second aspect relates to planning and the future:
- Establishing a permanent Reconstruction Authority. It will be a legislative body with legislative power based on the Queensland model.
- Disaster adaptation plans to be put in place. In particular, these relate to buyback and land swap schemes. ‘This is about local and regional solutions,’ said the Premier.
- EOI will be started by end of August for areas of both public and private land that can be made available for land swaps and buyback schemes.
- A commitment that development in future areas will not be subject to flooding.
- ‘We need to rebuild in a resilient way that keeps the character and charm of these wonderful communities in the Northern Rivers,’ said the Premier.
The Flood Inquiry comes in three volumes and Professor Mary O’Kane said that: ‘We don’t know enough how much was climate change… and the storms were well within the historic record. What was unusual was the intensity of the rain and the fact that the rain stalled, unfortunately above Lismore… We saw this again in the more recent floods in the Hawkesbury Nepean. There’s more work that has to be done on climate change but this is certainly something that we need to be on the lookout for.’
Professor O’Kane emphasised that they had looked at ‘the importance being prepared, and the community knowing what to look for. That we need better warning of things like flash flooding. We also emphasised the importance of kids knowing about things, and education in schools about how you respond to disasters.’
The report recommends that floodplains are not for living on, but that they should ‘come back into public ownership’ with as little key infrastructure as possible being placed on floodplains.
State Member for Lismore Janelle Saffin speaking on behalf of local members said, ‘We’ve been through a lot of floods, bushfires, covid – we’ve seen a lot of reports but we haven’t always seen them implemented. This is the one that is going to change how we adapt, become a model of adaptation, how we respond to disasters and how we as a community are integrated into that response.’
‘Some will happen immediately, others will take time.’
Premier Perrottet confirmed that the buyback scheme would be based on house prices before the floods, but said they were still working on the criteria of the scheme.
‘In relation to land swaps and buybacks I want to have that criteria finalised as quickly as possible,’ he explained.
‘David Witherdin will commence an EOI [expressions of interest process] for land owners at the end of August so we can determine where land may be available.’
You can watch the full media event on the ABC here.