State MPs divided over calls for flood review

UPDATE, 4.20pm:  LISMORE MP Thomas George said he won't jump on the political bandwagon and join calls for an independent review into the March 31 floods just yet.

Mr George said he would wait for the finalised reports into reviews and debriefings already being undertaken by SES and other emergency services before he threw his support behind a review.

He anticipated the reports would be with the Minister for Emergency Services Troy Grant in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile Tweed MP, Geoff Provest said he'd back a review into the floods "as long as it didn't become a witch-hunt". 

"There were lots of issues (with the floods) that need to be addressed," Mr Provest said.

He said "it's time to look at the actions of every emergency agency involved" to bolster natural disaster response and recovery plans. 

An aerial photograph of floodwaters engulfing residential housing in central Lismore, New South Wales, Friday, March 31, 2017. The Wilsons River breached its banks early this morning flooding, the far-northern NSW town. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt) NO ARCHIVING
An aerial photograph of floodwaters engulfing residential housing in central Lismore, New South Wales, Friday, March 31, 2017. The Wilsons River breached its banks early this morning flooding, the far-northern NSW town. (AAP Image/Dave Hunt) NO ARCHIVING DAVE HUNT

UPDATE 1.10pm: POLITICIANS have thrown their support behind launching an independent review into the March 31 floods following Lismore Mayor, Isaac Smith's calls for a review earlier today.

The call for a review has attracted bipartisan agreement from the Members for Page and Richmond.

Nationals Page MP Kevin Hogan said a review would be an important step to examine and improve flood response by emergency services, government and communities. 

"The review needs to be headed by someone who is independent and has the skills and insight in this area. I am sure there are a number of people with these qualities," Mr Hogan said.

A retired judge was suggested by Labor Richmond MP Justine Elliot as someone with appropriate experience to lead the review.

Ms Elliot in Parliament yesterday implored the Coalition to provide more support for flood-affected communities.

She called on the Prime Minister and State Premier to return to the region and "sit down with our community and business leaders, hear their stories and hear about the action needed, and help us to recover and rebuild".

 

TUESDAY 11.15am: MAYOR of Lismore, Isaac Smith is calling for an independent review into the March 31 floods to ensure more effective preparation, response and recovery for future natural disasters.

While no lives were lost in the Lismore floods, Cr Smith pointed to deaths in region's north that warrant closer analysis of the entire event, from warnings leading up to the floods through to response and recovery.

"The tragedies up in Murwillumbah to the north mean that there needs to be some more scrutiny over what happened through this whole event for our region and that will have implications for Lismore as well," Cr Smith said.

"We need to have somebody come in and ask some of those hard questions but get the best information from the services that were involved.

"Then we can prepare properly for the next (flood)."

Cr Smith said he'd prefer somebody independent of local organisations to head a review.

The Mayor's calls for an independent review come as emergency services undertake their own reviews and debriefs into the disaster.

 

Lismore councillor Isaac Smith has been preselected as Labour candidate for Lismore at the 2015 NSW election. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star
Lismore councillor Isaac Smith has been preselected as Labour candidate for Lismore at the 2015 NSW election. Photo Marc Stapelberg / The Northern Star Marc Stapelberg

Emergency services debrief, review floods

Flood forums hosted by the SES have assisted the service in identifying areas for improvement to their community flood response and preparation.

The SES's public communications is one aspect of the floods Richmond/Tweed deputy controller Wayne Pettit said the would be assessing as part of its review process.

In particular, Mr Pettit cited concerns about the wordiness of the service's public broadcasts, which media are asked to read verbatim.

"If we can better word our warnings and our bulletin products so that people understand them that is a huge improvement in itself," Mr Pettit said.

 

Brett Grainger, of South Lismore, helps to clean up town.
Brett Grainger, of South Lismore, helps to clean up town. Marc Stapelberg

When rolling out evacuation orders in Lismore's CBD on Thursday, March 30, Mr Pettit said their were "mixed messages" about how SES volunteers treated store operators.

"I understand there was some people say that message was much more forceful than (others) and that's a part of the things we are looking into," he said.

Richmond Local Area Command's Commander Superintendent Greg Martin has played a significant role in emergency service debriefings and on-going reviews.

He said communications, such as flood warnings, could be to be simplified similarly to the Rural Fire Service colour-coded fire danger warning.

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Cr Smith also floated the idea of implementing a compulsory flood plan for the city with heads of emergency services earlier this month.

"We really need a plan that includes everyone to make sure that everyone knows what to do when preparing for or recovering from a flood," Cr Smith said.

"I really believe that there's some more flood mitigation that we can do but there's better ways we can work together with the organisations we have in place to make sure the right information gets out to people now."

Cr Smith discussed the plan with Commander Supt Greg Martin, who took stock of Cr Smith's suggestion and said he would explore an evaluation of existing flood management plans.

"I take (Cr Smith's) lead so therefore as the local emergency operations controller its incumbent upon my self to drive that process with the local emergency management committee," Commander Supt Martin said.

 

Floods Aerial Views Lismore
Photo David Nielsen / Northern Star
Floods Aerial Views Lismore Photo David Nielsen / Northern Star David Nielsen

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