Coffs Coast Advocate

Flood report has ongoing issues

TOURISM, the effect of power outages on the dairy industry, community mental health, flood education and emergency warning systems were among the ongoing issues listed for further discussion by Ken Moroney in his report on the region's autumn floods.

Mr Moroney was the recovery co-ordinator for the north coast floods (May 2009) and his 36 page report, released yesterday, also refers to the March 31 flood in Coffs Harbour and Bellingen.

Mr Moroney notes in his summary that the impact on the region and its residents was multiplied by the floods, storms and heavy rainfall which affected the area in February, March, April and May.

He recommended a review of the composition and functions of recovery committees and recovery centres to provide residents with more holistic government services and recommended that local state members of parliament should be invited as observers on their local recovery committee, while local mayors should be appointed as local recovery co-ordinators.

Mr Moroney said recovery centres were the key to community satisfaction with the process of flood recovery and noted that Coffs Harbour's flood recovery centre had served as the model for others in the region.

He particularly noted the work, personal drive and commitment of Coffs Harbour City Council staff member Raechel Squires in establishing the local centre then providing help to other centres.

He said those staffing the centres had shown remarkable commitment and dedication and he recommended formal recognition of these people at government level.

He said concerns were raised with him about the number of devices for early warning of flood levels and their accuracy.

Mr Moroney recommended a properly structured and focused community based flood education and awareness program and that the use of portable electronic message switching devices and static emergency advice signs be discussed with the RTA and ABC.

A generator subsidy scheme for dairy farmers affected by power outages was one possible solution to farmers who were unable to milk, had cows contract mastitis, had to throw out stored milk because of prolonged blackouts and farms cut off from factories as flood waters cut roads.

As an accidental by-product of metropolitan media reporting, it was felt tourism was affected as visitors avoided the area even once 'a level of normality' had returned to local roads.

Mr Moroney said Tourism NSW needed to be engaged at such a critical time.

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