The O’Kane-Fuller Flood Inquiry’s 28 recommendations will help improve future flood resilience 

The New South Wales (NSW) government has released the O’Kane-Fuller Flood Inquiry’s findings and its response to the inquiry’s recommendations.

Premier Dominic Perrottet said the independent flood inquiry’s 28 recommendations serve as a guide to ensure the government and communities prepare for floods in the future and recover faster.

“We now have a pathway to better prepare for, respond to, and recover from future floods across NSW that also builds on the ongoing flood recovery efforts that are taking place,” Perrottet said.

The recommendations include:

  • Reshaping Resilience NSW to Recovery NSW to ensure a more streamlined agency focused on the first 100 days post disaster;
  • Migration off high-risk floodplains over time using a mixture of planning controls, land swaps, and buy-backs and leveraging private investment in new developments;
  • A dedicated Task Force Hawk to ensure emergency management is embedded at the highest level of the NSW government;
  • Establishing an NSW Reconstruction Authority, with legislation to be introduced by the end of the year;
  • Creating a full-time deputy commissioner of police focused on emergency management;
  • Training for the community to improve their ability to respond and recover from disasters and greater training and support for the SES; and
  • Greater emphasis on affordable housing in the Northern Rivers, with adaptation plans for towns to be developed over the next three to five years.

“Work will start on implementing a number of the recommendations immediately, while other recommendations will require further work and be implemented in stages, with ongoing community consultation and engagement,” Perrottet said.

Insurers welcome findings

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) and Suncorp were among those welcoming the release of the report and the Government’s response to its recommendations, particularly on land use planning and the relocation of homes in the most flood-prone areas.  

Insurers see this as crucial to strengthening resilience across communities, particularly those most at risk from flood. 

According to Andrew Hall, CEO Insurance Council of Australia: ”The O’Kane-Fuller Inquiry sets out the risks posed by extreme weather at a regional and local level, and if its recommendations are properly implemented will significantly enhance the State’s capability to prepare for future events.  

“We commend the NSW Government on its willingness to listen to the experts, make the significant investments needed, and we look forward to working with the new Reconstruction Authority. 

”The scale of the impact of this year’s floods, the number of previous floods in locations such as Lismore, and the increasing likelihood of further events make it imperative that the rebuild and reconstruction significantly improves the resilience of at-risk communities to future extreme weather events, including adapting some areas away from residential property if that is what is required.”

Meanwhile, Suncorp Group CEO insurance product & portfolio Lisa Harrison said the establishment of the NSW Reconstruction Authority, which will be dedicated to disaster recovery, reconstruction and preparedness, was a positive outcome.

“Insurers can play an important role in helping the new Authority in assessing the impacts of extreme weather, including asset and community-level vulnerability,” Harrison said, “today’s commitment by the NSW Government to focus on land use planning and relocation of homes through land swaps and buy-backs in the most high-risk areas is urgently needed.”

The Bureau of Meteorology has indicated Australia will likely experience a rare third consecutive La Niña this summer.

“As we face into more rain and possible flooding, we know it is important that we continue to advocate to make communities safer while easing affordability pressures for homeowners in high-risk regions,” Harrison added.

“Our four-point action plan recommends investments in public and private resilience infrastructure, improvements to where we build and how we build homes, and tax reform to immediately ease affordability pressures.