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The NSW State Emergency Service is accused of failing to plan catastrophic flooding in Lismore and the wider Northern Rivers, despite decades-old investigative warnings that such a disaster was likely.

In exclusive interviews, as well as testimonials from two separate investigations, Northern Rivers political and community leaders, residents, rescuers and insiders laid out how SES management faltered in the face of the natural disaster as the army of volunteers strove, often without any communication or direction, to combat the disaster that engulfed the northern rivers of NSW.

Woodburn, in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, was inundated with water earlier this year.

Woodburn, in the Northern Rivers region of NSW, was inundated with water earlier this year.Credit:Janie Barrett

Four people died in the February 28 flood and thousands remain homeless after the event, which is now the subject of an independent investigation by Professor Mary O’Kane and former Police Commissioner Michael Fuller.

The investigation would report the first of its findings by June 30, and a second report later in the year. However, it will now release one report at the end of July. A separate parliamentary inquiry of the state is also being held.


Local MPs Geoff Provest, Janelle Saffin and Tamara Smith have also expressed concerns about SES’s response, which includes a lack of coordination, insufficient training and a lack of local knowledge of professional staff, including failure to evacuate the towns along the river earlier. river from Lismore, including Coraki, Woodburn, Wardell and Broadwater, as well as the SES operations in the Tweed Valley and Byron Shire.

While the magnitude and speed of the flooding during the February disaster stunned and overwhelmed everyone as rain records were set for NSW, many residents and community leaders are asking why the SES, the designated flood control agency under the NSW Act, isn’t. was able to self in the immediate aftermath. And, most importantly, whether it was preparing for how such a catastrophic event would affect its ability to save people.

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