A Message from the IPWEA NSW President

The demands on local Councils continues to outstrip the funding available. IPWEA NSW have asked for help from all to advocate for a new paradigm where emergency management is moved to a NSW Government responsibility. This includes removing the $120m annual contribution to emergency services and transferring ownership of Rural Fire Services and State Emergency Services infrastructure from local Councils to the NSW Government.

We know the NSW Government is exploring improved ways to tackle emergency management through the NSW Bushfire Inquiry, including liaising with other NSW Government agencies, Councils and the community. The Australian Government is similarly investigating a better way through the Royal Commission into National Natural Disasters.

IPWEA NSW would recommend a new way forward. One where emergency management is treated as the profession that is needed to serve our communities going forward, and where the key roles sit within an appropriate NSW Government agency, supported by other professionals in that space. And one where local Councils can still have a powerful voice, and will still play a key role through the services we deliver to our communities.

Our recommendation would include:

  • Decentralisation of emergency management roles to regional NSW providing employment in the regions and stronger local knowledge
  • Improved capacity for resilience and recovery planning with that resource capable to transition directly into leading recovery (instead of Local Government)
  • Significant efficiency gains in the emergency management space with a greater capacity for more on-the-ground professional emergency management personnel in each Local Government Area, or agreed combined areas
  • Far more consistent emergency management outcomes regardless of the size or capacity of the Council (which is of itself highly variable)
  • Vastly improved strategy and delivery of emergency services infrastructure through integration
  • Vastly improved alignment by allowing local Councils and the NSW Police to focus on their core roles
  • Improved facilities, support and training for emergency services volunteers
  • A significant boost to the financial sustainability of all Councils in NSW
  • A greater capacity within local Councils to develop and implement permanent resilience improvements (eg on critical infrastructure)
  • Local Councils still having a critical role to play in emergency management planning and response, through a ‘seat at the table’.

My professional view is that any proposal to simply insert a paid Local Emergency Management Officer into Local Government is a short term and fragile mechanism that will not serve our communities nor Government well into the future, either in the response or recovery phases of natural disasters. To train, have back-up and proper career pathing in the emergency management space requires a robust emergency management organisation with appropriate depth and breadth of expertise and experience.

Yours Sincerely,

Warren Sharpe OAM                                                                           

President                                                                                              
IPWEA NSW

Director Infrastructure Services
Local Emergency Management Officer
Eurobodalla Shire Council