Councillors have endorsed the spending of an additional $226,000 per year on Council’s work in preparing, responding and helping the community recover from disasters/emergencies.
“Only last week, residents, schools and businesses in Toormina, Sawtell and around the city centre and jetty area in Coffs Harbour were hit by our latest emergency situation, a supercell hail storm whose ferocity was unprecedented,” said Steve McGrath Council’s General Manager.
“This was just the latest in a series of disasters – drought, storm, floods, bushfire – and the pandemic that our local government area has experienced in recent times.
“Each time such events occur, Council staff, equipment and expertise is deployed to help people cope with the situation as it’s happening and in the recovery process.
“While the emergency services are often most visible during a flood, for example, people perhaps don’t realise that those services themselves rely pretty heavily on the assistance of Council’s own staff, plant and equipment to help the community. In addition, community expectations are constantly rising in regard to council assistance during a crisis.
“Following a disaster, we also carry out a huge amount of clean-up work and then also switch our focus to helping residents and the local economy recover through various programs and services that are developed to respond to each situation.
“All of this places a strain on Council resources and staff, many of whom do not have any specific emergency management role, to provide time and resources in support of response and recovery – while also trying to maintain Council’s day-to-day services to the community.
“But this inevitably does have an impact on our regular services to the community, especially during a very long event such as the current pandemic.”
Since the bushfires, Council has received financial help from National Disaster Recovery Funding to employ a Bushfire Community Recovery Officer and a part-time Project Support Officer. However, both of these roles are fixed term appointments until approximately March 2022 and are intended to be solely focused on recovery and resilience-building from the 2019 event.
“With the NSW Government’s recent focus – through Resilience NSW – on working with communities to build in the resilience needed to cope with the increasing number of natural disasters it’s clear we’ll continue to face, we have concluded that we need to invest further in our ‘Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Recovery’ functions so that we can help build community resilience in the face of emergencies and ensure that the impact on our normal services is minimised.”