Flood review hits the streets of Lismore

FORMER NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Dave Owens touched down in Lismore to begin an independent review into the State Emergency Service's response during the March floods.   

Mr Owens was employed by NSW SES commissioner Mark Smethurst to head the independent review about two weeks ago.   

Yesterday, he met with Richmond Tweed regional controller, Andrew McPhee as well as volunteers at a unit, region and state level who responded to the disastrous one-in-40-year flood.

Following talks with emergency services, Mr Owens then toured Lismore's levee and its surrounds "to get a feel for what went on during the event."  

Tomorrow, Mr Owens would meet with Lismore City Council staff general manager, Gary Murphy as well as local emergency management officer Scott Turner before touring the Tweed Shire on Friday.   

After an evaluation of those discussions, Mr Owens said he would then assess the necessity of talking to business owners and residents.   

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Mr Owens said information obtained from the SES's two separate after action flood reviews, community forums and his own assessments would form his report and possible recommendations. 

While he described the end of July deadline as a tight turn around, Mr Owens said a month was a sufficient timeframe to conduct the review.   

"I believe it is, I would have asked for more (if it was needed)," Mr Owens said. 

"Over the coming weeks, it'll be going through all of the documents and matching up with what actually took place on the ground to what was in plans and documents."  

"It's going to be a hectic pace but it needs to be done and it needs to be done quickly," Mr Owens said.  

Public access to the recommendations was still up in the air as Mr Owens said it would be the SES's decision.

Mayor Denise Knight, NSW State Recovery Coordinator Dave Owens and Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser inspect damage at Coffs Harbour Marina.
Mayor Denise Knight, NSW State Recovery Coordinator Dave Owens and Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser inspect damage at Coffs Harbour Marina. David Barwell

At last week's Lismore City Council meeting, Cr Bill Moorhouse's notice of motion to lobby the State Government for an independent review was carried unanimously.   

He said while the SES "may not want to put out all their dirty linen to the public" the council should be privy to an executive briefing of the recommendations.   

Cr Moorhouse said the community needed to be informed about improvements to flood response.   

"I think there needs to be some sort of briefing made to the community," Cr Moorhouse said.   

NSW SES commissioner Mark Smethurst said he couldn't "see any issues why the report can't be released more broadly."  

Mr Smethurst said the SES would incorporate aspects of the council's motion into the review including a final report briefing and informing them about future flood management plans.  



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