The SES has come under fire for its “confusing” warnings and instructions during the ongoing flood crisis in the New South Wales Northern Rivers region.
Currently more than 20 flood warnings for river systems are in place across the north and mid north coast, down to Sydney’s Hawkesbury where a minor flood warning has been issued.
Lismore went under for the second time in weeks in recent days after the levee broke.
Resident and local business owner Nancy Casson said she was “incredibly disappointed” with the instructions from the SES.
“We had an evacuation, then a non-evacuation, then an evacuation again,” she said.
“I don’t know what is lacking in their instructions to us. I don’t know why they constantly get it wrong.”
Ms Casson attributed the back-and-forth to twin factors – the provision of weather data and predictions from the Bureau of Meteorology, and the fact that decisions were being made at a far-removed SES headquarters in Sydney.
“Their instructions to us are coming from somewhere, and that place is getting it wrong every time,” she said.
“For me personally, the next time the BoM get it right will be the first.”
SES Assistant Commissioner Nicole Hogan said she could understand the “emotion” in the community.
“Floods can be devastating,” she said.
She said that when the evacuation order for Lismore had been lifted on Tuesday afternoon, it had been based on advice from volunteers and locals on the ground.
She said the priority at that point had been to help people recover from the recent flooding of some weeks ago, which involved letting people back into the ravaged community.
But an unpredictable thunderstorm, followed by flash flooding, triggered the subsequent re-imposition of the evacuation order.
“It is hard to predict that flash flooding can occur,” Assistant Commissioner Hogan said.
She pointed out that flash flooding and severe weather warnings had been in place for the region for some days.
And she disputed the suggestion that SES command’s distance from the crisis region was a problem.
“We work with our volunteers, and our volunteers work with the community,” she said.