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The NSW State Emergency Service faces accusations of failing to plan for catastrophic flooding in Lismore and the wider Northern Rivers, despite decades-old research warning such a disaster was likely.

In exclusive interviews, as well as testimony on two separate investigations, Northern Rivers political and community leaders, residents, rescuers and insiders detailed how SES leadership faltered in the face of the natural disaster, while its military of volunteers was trying, often without any communication. or direction, to tackle the disaster that flooded the rivers of Northern NSW.

Woodburn, in the Northern Rivers region of New South Wales, was flooded with water earlier this year.Credit:Janie Barrett

Four people died in the February 28 flood and thousands remain homeless after the event, which is now the subject of an independent investigation led by Professor Mary O’Kane and former police commissioner Michael Fuller.

The survey was due to deliver the first of its results by June 30 and a second report later in the year. However, it will now report back by the end of July. A separate state parliamentary inquiry is also underway.


Local state deputies Geoff Provest, Janelle Saffin and Tamara Smith also expressed concern about the SES’s response, including a lack of coordination, inadequate training and a lack of local knowledge from professional staff. by air, including the inability to evacuate earlier the towns downstream of Lismore, including Coraki, Woodburn, Wardell and Broadwater, as well as SES operations in the Tweed Valley and Byron Shire.

As the size and speed of the flood during the February disaster surprised and overwhelmed everyone, with rainfall records set for NSW, many residents and community leaders are asking why the SES, the combat agency designated for flooding under NSW law, was unable to right itself in the aftermath. And, more importantly, whether he prepared for how such a catastrophic event would affect his ability to rescue people.

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