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Resilience NSW Criticised for Management of Flood Response

Updated: Aug 1

Resilience NSW is a government organisation first established following the Black Summer Bushfires to assist in navigating crises and preparing and responding to natural disasters. Former NSW Rural Fire Service commissioner, Shane Fitzsimmons, was appointed to lead the agency.

An image of a flooded Australian town with a man overlooking a flooded street, with the NSW Government's Resilience NSW Logo and text "Missing in Action" foregrounded

Flood Management Criticism

During the New South Wales floods in early 2022, the agency was criticised for its handling of the disaster. MP for Lismore, Janelle Saffin, stated in an inquiry hearing that Resilience NSW were “simply not there,” and that "They were missing in action and they never made their presence known.”


Furthermore, Ms. Saffin stated that Resilience NSW were not prepared to respond and struggled to coordinate the evacuation and recovery centres. Some centres had no staff on site when residents began arriving and seeking help.


The Sydney Morning Herald reported that Resilience NSW, for two weeks, was unable to allocate staff outside of normal office hours to supervise one evacuation centre which housed nearly 1000 people.


Mayor of Lismore, Steve Krieg, said in the inquiry hearing that Resilience NSW did not appreciate that managing an evacuation centre would be a 24/7 operation:

“To have a public service come in and run an evacuation centre is a challenge because it’s almost treated like a nine-to-five job.


Mr. Fitzsimmons defended Resilience NSW's handling of the crisis:

“We’re not a 24-hour organisation. We don’t have thousands of personnel...We’re active and engaged but we’re only a couple of hundred people...We don’t have the scale or resourcing during the response phase of these events.”

Concerns Over Budget & Staff Pay

Resilience NSW served as a replacement for the previous agency, The Office of Emergency Management. In the last year of it’s operation, the 129 staff at The Office of Emergency Management cost the taxpayer $7.4 million dollars.


In the 2020-2021 financial year, Resilience NSW cost the taxpayer $19.2 million for only 105 staff. Labor MP's have raised concerns that this near three-fold greater budget is due to a disproportionately large executive branch within the agency.


During the same financial year, the agency was also provided with nearly $1 billion worth of grants. At time of writing, $400 million remains unspent with less than $6 million going towards building projects intended on providing resilience to natural disasters.

Sources & Further Reading

https://www.nsw.gov.au/resilience-nsw


https://www.themandarin.com.au/129837-nsw-rfs-commissioner-to-lead-new-emergency-management-agency/


https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/jun/15/not-a-24-hour-operation-shane-fitzsimmons-defends-resilience-nsw-response-to-floods


https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2022/may/31/resilience-nsw-missing-in-action-during-lismore-floods-says-local-mp


https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/nsw-must-rethink-its-flood-strategy-after-lismore-failures-20220629-p5axta.html


https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/nsw/resilience-nsw-leaves-almost-400-million-in-grant-money-unspent/news-story/08a5c4114b79e350cf03d4d4f6632f15


https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/one-nsw-department-paid-34-executives-above-the-maximum-salary-20210628-p584x7.html


https://www.smh.com.au/politics/nsw/nsw-taxpayers-invest-777-million-to-build-resilience-they-ll-expect-a-dividend-20220309-p5a32y.html

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