It’s now been more than three weeks since the end of the flood crisis.
The uninsured, underinsured and people who rent have been hit hard. Weeks after losing everything, some renting residents are still homeless.
The damage is widespread. In some areas it’s easier to find houses that weren’t affected, than ones that were.
On Central Ave in Deagon, I saw residents who’d been living there for decades and some just a few years. They saw pontoons break free, boats wash away and entire homes inundated.
Andy and his son Pablo on Blackwood Road had just finished emptying their home when I saw them on the street. They were living in an Airbnb. Dianne who had seen her family home inundated was still in shock.
This flood wasn’t contained to one or two suburbs in my ward of Deagon – it touched all of them.
I knew it was high down along the creek, but to see water that was 1.5m high, just three doors down from my own home showed how extraordinary this flood was.
But where there’s tragedy, there are also heroes.
I’ve seen some incredible shows of community support. On the Monday after the flood we saw teams from St Patrick’s College and the Brighton Roosters down at Deagon lending a hand. When someone would finish removing items from their house they would then move onto their neighbours.
We put the call out and found an army of volunteers to help strangers in their time of need. Almost immediately we saw cooked meals shared around neighbourhoods.
For days people ran on adrenaline, then the reality started sinking in. I saw lots of smiles of gratitude and plenty of tears shed over generations of memories out on the kerbside.
That support has continued and we are now working with community organisations, police and emergency services on continued outreach and financial support.
While my expectations of the community I have lived in my whole life were well and truly exceeded, I have also never felt more distant and less a part of Council than I did through this whole experience.
I was one of the Councillors that did not receive the early SITREPS (situation reports) from Council’s Local Disaster Coordination Committee. I struggled to find out how information would be distributed and struggled to find relevant information.
Council’s communication was beyond poor. There was absolutely no advice or warning for people who experienced flash flooding. There was no proper and prior planning for adequate sandbags on the Northside.
I spoke with the Lord Mayor on the Night of Sunday 27 February about the need for people to have advice about evacuations. I made clear that there were dozens and dozens of people that needed evacuations. Council’s position was that they needed to look after themselves and make that decision alone.
I was blown away.
I remain stunned at how hollow Council’s ability was to respond to the unfolding crisis and then clean up.
Not only does Council under the LNP not have enough staff to close roads that are flooded, we don’t have the equipment.
The lack of Council workers on the ground have left residents dangerously exposed in events like this.
The roll out of a kerbside collection was so slow that no one in Council knew when it would even start. The Lord Mayor was clueless.
Internal communication is abysmal. Councillors used to get regularly updated disaster response manuals. I don’t recall the last one I received. Our old Motorola radios were replaced recently and we were told training would occur – it didn’t.
On Saturday 5 March at about 3pm, I received a call asking if I wanted a bus load of mud army volunteers. This is after spending the day – in isolation from Council – organising over 100 volunteers to help dozens and dozens of local residents who needed it. At no point throughout that week did we receive contact from the Mud Army team.
So to summarise – there aren’t enough Council staff to respond to disasters, there isn’t enough equipment in an event like this to close roads and produce sandbags.
There was inadequate communication and no accessible evacuation centres for my Northside community.
Council is the lead agency for disaster coordination. This Lord Mayor has failed.
It’s no wonder residents in my suburbs feel left behind by this LNP Council.
There will be a lot of questions that need answering in a review of this LNP Council’s response to this disaster.