Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 17 October 2007
Parliamentary Record 17
Debates for 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; 10th Assembly 2005 - 2008; Parliamentary Record; ParliamentNT
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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory
DEBATES Wednesday 17 October 2007 4855 Madam Speaker, I commend the members for their bipartisan support of the bill. Mr KNIGHT (Daly): Madam Speaker, I support the Chief Ministers amendments to the Disasters Act. These changes have a greater focus on the Darwin and Palmerston urban area, but they also impact on my electorate outside of Darwin. Most of the people in the rural and regional areas use Darwin and Palmerston as service hubs. Recent cyclones have really made people realise the impact it has on regional areas. I will go into that a bit later. I congratulate the Darwin City Council for the huge effort they started last weekend in cleaning up the loose debris, and the community for participating. As the Minister for Infrastructure and Transport described, it is the airborne debris that can be the biggest cause of property and human damage than the wind itself. Getting that debris out of harms way is certainly the way to go. Over the last few years, cyclones have really brought home the necessity to continually review what we are doing. These amendments recognise that more needs to be done as far as reviewing our response and what we can do as a government to reduce the damage and protect life. Cyclones have a big impact a long way down the track. The member for Katherine would well realise that cyclones do not just stop their damage once they start to dissipate into a tropical depression. We have had several cyclones that have come in from the Gulf area and are downgraded to a tropical Low, but then they flood Katherine, so they have a great impact. Recent cyclones through the Marrakai area and stretching across into the Adelaide River area demonstrate that damaging winds can travel further south. The last cyclone came to about 50 km north of Adelaide River before it turned north again and it looked like Batchelor was in for some quite significant winds. Other cyclones have travelled down the Victoria River and impacted on places like Timber Creek and coastal communities like Wadeye, around the Cox Peninsula and Daly River. One area in which I have involvement is counter-disaster plans, which are an integral part of disaster management and what happens in Darwin and Palmerston during a cyclone threat. The people involved in the plans perform terrifically well. Representatives from Emergency Services have given me the time to run through their counter-disaster plans. From a local members point of view, I see the interaction between local counter-disaster plans for the Batchelor and Adelaide River areas and how they interact with Darwin. If you have a cyclone threat in Darwin, the first thing that people who have been here for a while do is pack up the car, fuel it up and off they go to Adelaide River, which was seen as a pseudo cyclone shelter. However, the reality is that Adelaide River can only support a certain number of people and livestock. We had the situation a few years back where horses were being taken from Darwin Turf Club and moved to Adelaide River. The stables filled up very quickly so some people had to go further down the track. I think they went as far as Pine Creek and Katherine. Something that needs to be considered is that interaction with local counter-disaster plans. It was fortuitous that the last cyclone that came through in some ways happened just before Anzac Day and the Adelaide River Show Society - the ARSS Club as it is known, of which I am Patron - had eggs and bacon for the Anzac Day breakfast. They had catered for over 1000 people and, obviously, that year the service was called off, so they fed everyone in the overflowing caravan park and the town for a day-and-a-half before it all ran out. All these things need to be considered. People should realise that if they want to get out, they need to plan to go as far as Katherine to get away from a cyclone because you cannot rely on Batchelor or Adelaide River to look after you. The continual review of the act and of counter-disaster plans needs to happen because we have new developments happening everywhere. The rural area has been described in this House numerous times as developing rapidly. New road infrastructure means that flood patterns change, and so it poses both threats and opportunities to cater for those disasters when they happen. We had the situation at Dundee Beach where we had a cyclone coming from the east, and a cyclone is always preceded by heavy rain. A few years ago, there would not have been many people out there at all and they would have battened down the hatches and weathered the storm. What is happening now is there is a greater population out there. There are elderly people and people with disabilities. The preceding rain cut off the road to Dundee so people could not get out by road. There is no public airstrip in the community. We have focused attention on what we can do for people out there. There needs to be continual review of these counter-disaster plans and our responses to them. Forecasting and updating is something that came up in meetings I had after the recent cyclone when I travelled around the communities. People
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