Local News

Coutts Crossing image: Lynne Mowbray

SES on CVC’s opposition to Lismore control centre

CVC: “There was no local [SES] incident management team within the Clarence Valley, [which] meant that emergencies in the Grafton, Tucabia, Coutts Crossing, Glenreagh, Copmanhurst, Maclean, Lawrence, Iluka and Yamba received little attention?”

The NSW State Emergency Service (SES) says a restructure of its command functions in 2018, resulted in February’s moderate flooding event being managed from Lismore.

In the March 30 story, In case of emergency, call Lismore, the mayor, Jim Simmons, stated: “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.”

Councillors unanimously supported the mayor at the March 24 Clarence Valley Council (CVC) meeting, to “advise the local state member Chris Gulaptis MP and the Minister for Police and Emergency Services David Elliott MP of [CVC’s] strong opposition to the relocation of SES emergency and incident management to Lismore”.

The council is seeking “the reinstatement of the resources and management to the [former] Clarence Valley incident control centre in South Grafton for all future emergency management events taking place in the Clarence Valley”.

The Independent put the following enquiry to the SES: Could you please [advise the] date the relocation of SES emergency and incident management for incidents in the Clarence Valley LGA was moved to Lismore?

Can you please state why this occurred?

Clarence Valley Council last week decided this is inadequate during disasters in the Clarence Valley, due to controllers in remote areas [distanced from actual events] not understanding flood behaviour, for example.

How do you justify the move … given that CVC has … [claimed] that the “the recent moderate flood event on the Clarence was minimally managed from the remotely located Incident Control Centre (ICC) at Southern Cross University Lismore” and that “there was no local incident management team within the Clarence Valley, [which] meant that emergencies in the Grafton, Tucabia, Coutts Crossing, Glenreagh, Copmanhurst, Maclean, Lawrence, Iluka and Yamba received little attention”?

The SES replied with the following statement: “The NSW State Emergency Service (SES) provides emergency assistance to the community throughout the State, and we provide our services through a network of locations, and in collaboration with other agencies.

“Decisions in terms of the location of any incident command functions are made on the basis of the scale of the event, the availability of resources and a number of other operational considerations.

“This decision considers areas likely to be affected, available resources and facilities as well as collaboration with other agencies.

“Due to the size and potential impact of the recent event, the NSW SES decided to set up our level 3 Incident Command Centre structure in Lismore.

“The flood desk, logistics and planning cells were managed through Goonellabah, and these two locations were used to coordinate responses for the whole northern region, utilising the most up to date information and local knowledge and working closely with our teams on the ground.

“The Clarence Nambucca Unit was allocated response activities based on their availability and the requests for assistance.

“Incident control support was available to them through the incident command centre in Lismore.

“An Information and Warnings Unit was established at the South Grafton office to support operations across Northern NSW during the floods in February 2020.

“The restructure of the SES occurred in 2018, and it had no impact on the South Grafton office, or the staff located in the office.

“The NSW SES is proud of the exceptional efforts of its South Grafton-based members during the recent floods who [sic] provided invaluable expertise and local knowledge.”

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