Blame the system not the volunteers: OPINION

The junction of Terania Creek and Tuntable Creek at The Channon, looking towards The Channon Tavern.
The junction of Terania Creek and Tuntable Creek at The Channon, looking towards The Channon Tavern. Contributed Ray Robertson

LETTER to the Editor:

It's the SES system that is at fault. Not the magnificent local volunteers.

When I worked in flood relief years ago, I remember the SES put in place a system for getting rainfall information from people in the upper catchments, which is the best predictor of downstream flooding.

Based on local knowledge in the Terania Creek catchment alone, I and many others knew by lunchtime on the day of the flood, that the Lismore levee would overtop.

The owner of a small clothing shop in Molesworth Street was so far ahead, she had her whole shop packed up by lunchtime!

Over the years too much power and local knowledge has left the local region. Local SES were not allowed by distant headquarters to issue a warning early enough, or allow people to keep packing up late enough. These decisions must be made locally.

It would be easy enough to make a phone app so people upstream can enter rainfall data, which is then processed to predict specific flood locations and heights. Council already has lots of data for flood levels - mapped to each building in the flood areas.

On the flood night, as reports of flooding under Lismore Square started to come in, my niece in Dalziel Street was panicking about whether to evacuate. I looked up the flood maps and reassured her it was OK to stay put. And it was.

Since 1996, I have watched this country of 'can do' people, decline towards a culture of 'whinge and blame', as evidenced by the people who have abused the wonderful SES volunteers. Thank goodness it hasn't yet infected everyone. The local SES and the Helping Hands volunteers and many more showed clearly what we can do when we all step up, take responsibility, and say 'we can'. Now that's the kind of leadership I want to see!

Bobbi Allan

Topics:  flood 2017 lismore northern rivers natural disaster ses

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