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In case of emergency, call Lismore

Geoff Helisma
30th March 2020

Clarence Valley Council (CVC) is seeking to have the State Emergency Services’ (SES) former Clarence Valley incident control centre reinstated, instead of having to rely on the Lismore control centre during emergencies.

Mayor Jim Simmons tabled a mayoral minute at the March 24 CVC meeting; councillors unanimously supported that CVC “advise the local state member Chris Gulaptis MP and the Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott MP of its strong opposition to the relocation of SES emergency and incident management to Lismore”.

Further, CVC will “seek the reinstatement of the resources and management to the Clarence Valley Incident Control Centre in South Grafton for all future emergency management events taking place in the Clarence Valley”.

The wrote in his minute: “The State Emergency Service has been going through a restructure over the last couple of years that has resulted in the reallocation of key resources and emergency management control to its operations centre in Lismore.

“Key staff managing flood and other natural events are now based in Lismore with little knowledge of the Clarence Valley as demonstrated in the last moderate flooding event on the Clarence in February.”
The mayor wrote that these perceived deficiencies were raised by SES volunteers when he met with them.

Specifically, these issues were among those raised:
The recent moderate flood event on the Clarence was minimally managed from the remotely located Incident Control Centre (ICC) at Southern Cross University Lismore.

There was no local incident management team within the Clarence Valley. This meant that emergencies in the Grafton, Tucabia, Coutts Crossing, Glenreagh, Copmanhurst, Maclean, Lawrence, Iluka and Yamba received little attention.

Staff at the Lismore ICC included Queensland Fire and Emergency Services personnel had little knowledge and unaware of localities in the Clarence Valley and no knowledge of the local 9 SES units and the Clarence Nambucca Capability Unit. This was confirmed following different telephone exchanges between locally based people and the Lismore ICC.
Radio interviews were conducted with the Incident Controller in Lismore who could only give sketchy information about flooding impacts along the Orara and Clarence Rivers.

Our community is looking for more information about the impacts of minor, moderate and major flooding in our region.

The mayor pointed out that CVC’s “local emergency management officer and senior staff are of the view that the changed arrangements within the SES are unacceptable and not serving our area”.

“It is my strong view that the Clarence Valley community is vulnerable and at risk if the current level of emergency management is not complimented with personnel who know the local area [and] the behaviour of floods in our area,” he wrote.

The mayor said these personnel should be “based within the Clarence Valley so they can quickly respond to matters as they arise”.

The Independent lodged an enquiry with the SES head office, however, a response was not received before publication.