Seymour Flood Hearing: Council highlight lack of resources made available during recovery

The committee for the Inquiry into the 2022 Flood Event in Victoria sat in Seymour on Thursday, hearing from several of the area's councils, businesses, recovery committees and community groups.

Seymour flood hearing reports by Jordyn Grubisic

Mitchell Shire Council submitted 35 recommendations to the Inquiry into the 2022 Flood Event in Victoria, focusing on emergency services operations during the October floods and a lack of resources in the recovery.

Mitchell Shire Council Mayor Fiona Stevens, chief executive Brett Luxford and flood recovery manager Kellie Massouras provided evidence to the inquiry committee on Thursday.

Cr Stevens said the floods were devastating for the community.

“The impacts are still being felt. The water has gone but challenges remain,” she said.

The council presented evidence that not establishing a Seymour-based Incident Control Centre during the floods made communications difficult and resulted in a failure to get timely information and responses causing additional confusion, delays and anxiety.

Although warnings were issued based on information available to relevant agencies, they were not conveyed in a timely manner and as the floods unfolded, it was obvious the information on which they were based was becoming unreliable.

The council submitted that improvements needed to be made to both the modelling and the warnings, and use of the Standard Emergency Warning Signal siren needed to be considered.

“There are many important lessons to be learnt to ensure good planning and effective responses for any future emergency events,” Cr Stevens said.

Evidence of underinvestment in volunteer services was also presented with the two State Emergency Service units within Mitchell Shire – based at Seymour and Kilmore – receiving more than 515 requests for assistance during the flood, far exceeding the capacity of local emergency services and placing additional pressure on volunteers.

Mitchell Shire, one of the first impacted in last year’s Victorian floods, was not included in the $16 million Housing Taskforce established just days after the flood despite more than 150 homes being inundated by floodwater with about 75 remaining vacant.

Council submitted that community members were forced to seek temporary accommodation away from their community and support networks placing additional stress on their recovery journey.

“An investment should also include a focus on housing – with many forced to leave Seymour when local housing could and should have been available, the system for ensuring a place-based response to housing demand should be implemented,” council’s submitted.

“The more immediate and short-term responses such as those at Rochester and announcements at Shepparton for the Homes at Home program were not offered to Mitchell Shire with the offering of the Homes at Home Program came almost 12 months later.”

Council presented a lack of local services – particularly mental health and other wellbeing services – to the inquiry committee.

Council said despite Seymour being one of the nation’s most disadvantaged townships there was a serious lack of locally-based services particularly for mental and other wellbeing needs with urgent funding required to help deliver infrastructure accommodating the challenge both during and after significant events.

“All levels of government must now work together to have the committee’s recommendations implemented in a timely manner to allow the improvements to become practice,” Cr Stevens said.

Featured image: The committee for the Inquiry into the 2022 Flood Event in Victoria sat in Seymour on Thursday, hearing from several of the area’s councils, businesses, recovery committees and community groups.

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