Monday, 31 August 2020 11:19

WSROC: Bushfire Inquiry leaves councils high and dry Featured

WSROC President Barry Calvert and CEO Charles Casuscelli, right, discuss emergency response management with Cumberland City Mayor Steve Christou and General Manager Hamish McNulty today - 26 August 2020 WSROC President Barry Calvert and CEO Charles Casuscelli, right, discuss emergency response management with Cumberland City Mayor Steve Christou and General Manager Hamish McNulty today - 26 August 2020

Media release, 26 August 2020

Adoption of all 76 recommendations from the independent NSW Bushfire Inquiry by the NSW Government does not go far enough to recognise the frontline role of councils, or to ensure their capability in facing future disaster, says the Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Council (WSROC).

WSROC President, Cllr Barry Calvert, said “In submissions made to state and federal inquiries earlier this year, WSROC identified the need for better emergency management policy and planning, including state government recognition for the role councils take in dealing with disasters on the ground.

“Unfortunately, local government was referenced in just one of the Inquiry’s 76 recommendations. We welcome the NSW Government’s in-principle support for the Inquiry’s findings, but the lack of recognition for local government’s role is disheartening.

“Western Sydney copped the worst of greater Sydney’s bushfire experiences, facing loss of life, loss of property and loss of confidence. Councils need specific, specialised, targeted training and preparation that is consistent with the scale and intensity of likely threats, if we are to ensure resilience in the future” said Cllr Calvert.

At a WSROC Board meeting earlier this year, RFS Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons provided an operational briefing on the disaster and heard presentations from each council, stating, “Local government is the engine room of the response. I can’t overstate enough the criticality of local government’s role as an interface between the community and state and federal agencies.”

Cllr Calvert continued, “More than any other level of government, councils are place-based organisations, with critical local understanding of community needs. When faced with threats such as bushfires, that local knowledge is crucial to our response.

“However, our strategic and operational capability was seriously tested and found wanting, according to the Inquiry; the 2019-2020 bushfire experience left us exposed and placed enormous strain on volunteers and communities.

“This Inquiry was an ideal opportunity to identify and address those long-standing strategic, operational and governance issues that impede robust emergency management and to strike a planning pathway with future resilience in mind.

“Un-coordinated emergency management means that in the face of disaster, councils’ hands are tied. Without leadership for future planning, councils face an ongoing shortfall in emergency preparedness, resourcing and recovery - placing further pressure on our people and resources,” he said.

“WSROC calls for leadership from the NSW Government: Local Government needs a clear, defined approach to emergency management planning and response - before the 2020-2021 bushfire season hits.”

WSROC calls for:

  • A review and overhaul of all local government provided and affiliated emergency management infrastructure
  • A vision of a future role best suited to local government in emergency preparation and response
  • Utilisation of councils’ place-based knowledge in informing strategic planning
  • Development of best-practice contemporary capabilities within local government in support of future emergency management operations
  • Differentiated planning considerations for protecting urban, peri-urban and rural communities

[ENDS]

Media contact: Kate O’Connell or Kelly Gee, e: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., t: 02 9671 4333 

Last modified on Tuesday, 15 September 2020 10:57

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