10 February 2022

Belconnen residents hit out at 'ill-prepared' government storm response

| Lottie Twyford
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Gum tree in front of house

The Opposition called on the government to review the management of the recent storm in Belconnen. Photo: Jess Tankard.

Disappointed and disgruntled Belconnen residents – one of whom was left without power for six days after a storm tore through in early January – say the government was “ill-prepared” to manage and clean up the damage.

That’s why the government will now ask one of its committees to examine whether an inquiry into the storm response and management could be beneficial.

Hawker resident Lyn said she was “very disappointed” with how “ill-prepared the government was in responding to significant storm damage that occurred in and around Belconnen, especially given that this occurred in storm season”.

“Frankly, any cleanup was a case of too little too late, and people in west Belconnen justifiably felt they were forgotten,” Lyn explained.

Opposition spokesperson for emergency services James Milligan said it was unacceptable that Canberrans – some with small children – were left with no power for almost a week.

“[The government’s] response to the damage left by the storm was totally inadequate. More than 15,000 homes were left in the dark during and for some time after the storm tore through Belconnen,” Mr Milligan said.

He noted the storm caused “social, emotional and financial damage to those affected”.

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He said the government should have had a better response plan given the Bureau of Meteorology has registered more than 26 severe storms over the last 10 years.

“The SES and local community volunteers do a great job at coming together to help the community in times of need, but the local government needs to play a more significant role in that too.

“Canberrans expect the Labor-Greens Government to have a response plan.”

Mr Milligan hoped an inquiry could look at how the government responded to this storm and storms in previous years and the support they offered during and after to clean up from the storm damage, including power failures and significant storm debris and litter.

He said some residents also had concerns about communication after the event.

Minister responsible for Emergency Relief and Community Recovery Emma Davidson said she welcomed the prospect of an inquiry to focus on the “lessons to learn about coping with the immediate impacts of storms and how we support communities to get back on their feet”.

“It’s also crucial that we prepare for a future that will have more severe storms, more frequently,” she told the Assembly.

She amended Mr Milligan’s motion but the matter will now be referred to a standing committee on health and community wellbeing, which will consider an inquiry about recovery efforts.

The inquiry may also examine government communication strategies and the service delivery options of various agencies throughout the storm period and in the weeks afterwards.

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Earlier this month, Deputy Chief Minister Yvette Berry said the storm cleanup in the Belconnen area could take months, even as Transport Canberra and City Services’ cleanup crews had their ranks bolstered by an additional 20 workers.

She sought to assure the community that the government still had the capacity to manage any other storms if they were to arise.

Ms Berry explained that works always began with removing hazards from driveways, roads, and paths before focusing on removing fallen trees and branches on public land in busy areas such as shopping centres and near schools.

Lastly, nature strips, playgrounds, sports grounds and parks would be dealt with.

Locals should begin to see signage to indicate that storm cleanup work is underway and people are encouraged to lodge a request for help through the online reporting system, Fix My Street.

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