Our volunteers and emergency services are getting a fair bit of practice responding to challenges like the recent floods. But the big question is, are our governments getting any better at responding to them?
In terms of the state and federal governments there has been criticism of the immediate response - some of it justified, some of it not. It must be recognised that these events are very hard to plan for, and a lot of the response capacity is staffed by volunteers, but we must have honest conversations around how we can do better.
The number of organisations that have a role in these events are huge; the SES, police and ambulance, the LLS and the firefighters and the defence force, right the way down to the people in tinnies zipping back and forth to rescue people from rooftops, there's a multitude of people involved in the active 'rescue' phase of any natural disaster.
The challenge, then, is what comes next in the often-lengthy 'recovery' phase. The fire or the flood has ripped through and destroyed infrastructure and caused no small amount of heartache for the victims.
There is an expectation that governments will do 'something', but what should that be? Let loose the firehose of funding and hope some of it has the intended effect? Or be careful and calculating, dolling out precisely the right amount of grants while maintaining a firm grip on the purse strings?
Neither of those approaches is right, of course. Just as the immediate response is critical in terms of access to food and drinking water, shelter and medical attention, so too is the recovery phase critical.
NSW Farmers has been working away on advocating for the agricultural sector, which has been hit hard by the flooding, and we're pleased to have secured some important funding wins. We also welcome the review into this disaster response and what could have been done better. I just hope we can learn those lessons, so we are better prepared for next time.
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