Premier Chris Minns has visited Eugowra more than a year after floods razed the NSW village. The disaster serves as a lesson for future emergencies, he said.
Max and Kay Jones remember watching a house, a silo and their neighbours’ possessions wash down the street when a ferocious flood hit their rural NSW home.
“You’d sprint and you wouldn’t keep up with it,” Mr Jones told reporters in Eugowra on Tuesday, more than a year since the flood tore through the central west village.
“It was just that fierce, that water coming through.”
The water rose to 1.4m, the torrent lifting their cottage off its foundations and turning it 40 degrees.
The couple lived in an emergency pod house on their property, provided by the state government, in the months after the disaster, something that brought them comfort and dignity amid the chaos.
“The financial support was a godsend and the pods changed our lives,” Mrs Jones said.
“It made us want to tidy up … it gave us purpose.”
Premier Chris Minns visited Eugowra to meet residents and hear their experiences of the historic flood, which razed much of the village on November 14, 2022.
Mr Minns said stories from the disastrous flooding of the Eugowra region and the Northern Rivers served as lessons for the state government.
The disasters showed emergency housing should be on residents’ properties where possible to aid recovery, while funding was needed much sooner.
The state and federal governments announced joint funding of $100 million for house retrofits and repairs across the central west one year after the disaster, which many locals felt was too long to wait.
“When we’ve got layers of bureaucracy and red tape and you’ve got mayors … that just want to get on with it, I think we can be more responsive,” Mr Minns said.
“The sad truth is we can expect more bushfires, more floods, more natural disasters as a result of global warming, so we’ve got to get better at disaster management as a state.”
The premier said a University of Newcastle study that revealed women experienced sexual violence in evacuation centres after the Northern Rivers floods was “extremely troubling”.
The report recommended women and children have separate rooms in the centres, as some were forced to share spaces with sex offenders and domestic violence perpetrators.
“We are taking it seriously at the highest levels of government,” Mr Minns said.
“We want to make sure that we learn lessons for communities like the Northern Rivers so those appalling reports are not repeated.”
Community consultation on rebuilding and recovery efforts is set to begin across the central west.
Emergency Services Minister Jihad Dib said understanding individual community needs would also inform future disaster responses.
“Locals have told us they’ve never seen anything like this and we’ve seen the devastation,” Mr Dib said.
“But what we saw was a community that’s resilient, a community that’s strong, a community that wants to stick together.”
Rain NSW | Update
Fierce floods a lesson for NSW govt disaster response
By: Stephanie Gardiner
Image: Stephanie Gardiner