NSW convenes first meeting of disaster taskforce ahead of more wet weather

Task Force Hawk formed to address issues raised in an independent inquiry into floods earlier this year

Emergency agencies will brief a New South Wales government taskforce set up to improve the state’s response to disasters on Wednesday as residents brace for more wet weather in the third consecutive La Niña.

The meeting will be the first for Task Force Hawk – the newly formed permanent crisis committee of cabinet ministers and officials from the state’s emergency management agencies to learn from mistakes made during the February and March floods.

The committee was formed to address a finding of the independent probe into the responses to flooding that occurred earlier this year, which found NSW needed to improve the way it dealt with disaster preparedness, planning and emergency management.

The inquiry recommended the taskforce be established to ensure the government was prepared to respond to any emergency in the future.

“Task Force Hawk should resonate with the community in difficult times to ensure the highest level of confidence in Government’s response,” the inquiry found.

The premier, Dominic Perrottet, said the committee would ensure disaster preparedness was “at the same level as we consider other significant government matters such as budgets and infrastructure”.

“This committee means boots on the ground and faster responses to protect communities in the event of a natural disaster in NSW,” Perrottet said.

The state government and its agencies have faced criticism over the speed of the recovery, as well as issues in response and preparedness.

The State Emergency Service, Rural Fire Service, NSW police, Resilience NSW and Bureau of Meteorology will all be present at the meeting.

The role of each of the agencies was also interrogated as part of the floods inquiry, and all were undergoing changes as a result of its findings.

Residents in communities affected by the disaster have been on high alert with more rain predicted in coming days and weeks.

On Tuesday the BoM senior meteorologist Dean Narramorewarned there were severe thunderstorms, heavy rain and gusty winds on the way for some parts of the state.

“We could see more rain unfortunately as we get into the middle part of next week as well. The rain keeps continuing,” Narramore said.

While low to moderate rainfall was predicted over the coming week, residents were being warned that many dams were already at capacity, catchments already very wet and waterways sensitive to any future rainfall.

“As we move into next week and more weather systems are expected to bring more rainfall, just continue to stay updated with that to see where that rainfall will occur,” Narramore said.

Over the weekend, a five-year-old boy died after the car he was in washed away in flood waters in the state’s central west.


Tamsin Rose

The GuardianTramp

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