The NSW agency charged with preparing the state for natural disasters clearly failed the community during this year’s catastrophic floods and should be axed, the opposition says.
Resilience NSW caused more problems than it solved and Labor supported parliamentary inquiry recommendations it be dismantled, NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns said.
“Circumstances on the ground clearly indicate that the Resilience NSW’s bureaucratic structure is hindering emergency responses to these important and devastating natural disasters,” Mr Minns told reporters on Wednesday.
A NSW parliamentary probe into the state’s deadly flood disasters suggested axing Resilience NSW and restructuring the State Emergency Service, in its final report released on Tuesday.
The findings echo a separate independent report handed to Premier Dominic Perrottet ten days ago, that recommends dismantling Resilience NSW and purchasing land from flood victims.
Mr Minns declined to criticise the premier and the NSW government for the failings of its disaster agency, saying Labor supported its creation in 2020.
“I think in some ways we’ve been naive to the impact of what a giant bureaucracy will do, being placed on top of the ordinary and historical combat agencies like the RFS, the SES and the NSW Police Force,” he said.
A rescue worker comforts a woman during the floods in Lismore, northeastern NSW earlier this year. Source: AAP / JASON O’BRIEN/AAPIMAGE
The agency is led by former Rural Fire Service commissioner and 2021 NSW Australian of the Year Shane Fitzsimmons, who was appointed to the role after winning widespread praise for his leadership during the Black Summer bushfires.
Labor’s Walt Secord, who chaired the inquiry said there had been little debate over making a recommendation to axe the agency, unless it could be fixed by the government.
“This is about the performance of the organisation, the bureaucratic inability to deliver on the North Coast,” Mr Secord said.
Lismore MP Janelle Saffin called on the government to release the findings of its own independent flood inquiry.
“Just release the report,” Ms Saffin urged the premier on Wednesday.
“It’s a community who have suffered trauma.
“It was a humanitarian flood disaster, an inland tsunami, and it’s not fair to ask the community to continue to wait.”
The inquiry found emergency services were unprepared and uncoordinated for the February-March floods that left 13 people dead, 4000 homes destroyed and potentially up to $3 billion in damages across the Northern Rivers and Hawkesbury regions.
The report also said the government failed to provide services like housing and cash relief in time, and state infrastructure was not ready for the extent of the floods.
It recommended the SES should be restructured to harness local knowledge, coordinate with other agencies, boost paid staff salaries, push for more volunteers and Service NSW staff should be trained to help in flood relief centres.
First Nations people should also be included in community consultation on how to better prepare as well as recover from those of February and May.