Natural disaster forum for regional councils

Representatives from across the Central West gathered in Dubbo on Friday to help the region’s councils become better prepared for natural disasters.

The Disaster Ready Councils Forum was presented by the Hunter Regional Organisation of Council (HROC)’s regional project manager – disaster resilience, Ian Turnbull at Cascades Motor Inn.

EMERGENCY READY: Ian Turnbull (Hunter Regional Organisation of Councils) and Jim Henry (NSW Office of Emergency Management) at Friday's forum. Photo: JENNIFER HOAR

EMERGENCY READY: Ian Turnbull (Hunter Regional Organisation of Councils) and Jim Henry (NSW Office of Emergency Management) at Friday's forum. Photo: JENNIFER HOAR

After a year which has seen both fire and flood cripple parts of the region, Mr Turnbull said preparedness could be the difference between a community bouncing, or crawling, back from a disaster.

“Councils are the cornerstone of their communities and residents and community members expect council to do a whole range of things – regardless of whether they’re legislated to do it or not,” Mr Turnbull said.

“For every dollar you put into preparedness, you save anywhere between $6 and $10 in recovery.

“Councils pretty much take the lead in recovery because they have those relationships with community and know what the community’s capacity is.”

Councils pretty much take the lead in recovery because they have those relationships with community and know what the community’s capacity is.

Ian Turnbull.

Friday’s forum was one of five held across the state, and was presented in partnership with the NSW Office of Emergency Management and Statewide Mutual (the body that insures most councils in NSW).

About a dozen councils were represented at the forum, including Narromine, Bogan, and Lachlan.

Representatives heard a local case study – things the Warrumbungle Council had learned from the Sir Ivan Fire – and discussed any inefficiencies or gaps in their own disaster readiness.

The information will be used to shape resources and procedures, which will be presented at another forum early next year.

Mr Turnbull said NSW councils had received 1000 natural disaster declarations in the past 10 years – including 17 in the Lachlan Shire alone.

Apart from the physical cost, Mr Turnbull said disasters also had a human cost.

“Every dollar in infrastructure costs for a disaster, there’s an equal amount … in terms of the impact on people’s mental health,” he said.

“Response and recovery pretty much happen at the same time. The lights and sirens go, but the people are already in there getting ready to recover so if your council is ready to jump in there as soon as it’s off, then you get a much better outcome for your community.”

The Disaster Ready Councils project has been funded by the NSW government.