Territory Stories

Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 17 October 2007



Debates Day 5 - Wednesday 17 October 2007

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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

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Attribution International 4.0 (CC BY 4.0)

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Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory



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DEBATES Wednesday 17 October 2007 4857 services and the local council. The leading role was played by the local council, which conducted a cyclone cleanup and cyclone preparation, and put in place an emergency plan, together with the Emergency Services in Western Australia. They even prepared the cyclone centres where people were going to be housed. In addition, private business played a significant role. BHP owned the biggest mine and was running the towns power station. In cyclone preparation, BHP would make trucks available for people to put their freezers or fridges on, so they could be taken to the BHP area to plug them into the power station so people would not lose perishable foods. When I worked for the council in Port Hedland, before the cyclone season, trucks would go around town collecting everything from peoples back yards apart from garden waste. Western Australia has a blue, yellow and red system whereas we have Cyclone Warnings and a different system. When the equivalent of a Cyclone Warning was declared, trucks would, once again, go out and pick up whatever was missed the first time. In addition to that, the council would declare warnings and would force businesses to prepare themselves for the cyclone. For example, if it was car sales business, it would force them to park cars close together and in front of plate glass windows so debris would not destroy buildings. The threat was significant fines or they would take them to court for orders to clean their yards and store all their loose material in an enclosed area. It is very good to see that we now have that ability 48 hours from when the Bureau of Meteorology says a cyclone is expected to strike and declares a Cyclone Warning. As I said, in Darwin today, there are a significant number of cranes on the skyline and, consequently, there is a lot of building material lying around. This building material can become missiles and flying debris that can cause significant damage or even cost human lives. I am reminded of a friend who bought a house in Darwin and said the house was built like a fortress. When he tried to find the owner of the house, he discovered that the previous owner of the house, the person who actually built the house, went through Cyclone Tracy with his family. As the house was destroyed around them, they fled down the stairs of the elevated house. As they were fleeing, he felt his wifes grip loosen in his hand. When he turned around, he found a sheet of metal had hit his wife, nearly cutting her in half. She was one of the victims of Cyclone Tracy. If you look at some of the scientific books, you can see timber completely going through the trunk of a palm tree. There is such force from a cyclone that a piece of timber can be lifted and thrown around with significant results. In other cases, cyclones bring a lot of rain to the Territory. I recall, again from Port Hedland, that our house was on the foreshore. A colleague said that one of the cyclones was a dry cyclone with no rain. It took about 2.5 m of sand from under the master bedroom of the house and deposited it about three yards further down. He found that his car, which was left out, was completely stripped to bare metal by the force of the wind and the sand. It was sandblasted by the wind. They had to take the car away, replace all the windows and repaint the car as brand new. It is significant. That is the force of cyclones. One of the most frightening things was the briefing we received from CSIRO which stated that severity and frequency of cyclones in the north-east, north and north-west of Australia is expected to increase in the next five to 10 years. We have to be prepared now for the emergencies like storm surge, and with the construction of new and adequate cyclone shelters that can withstand the significant pressure of very strong winds. In addition, we must always be prepared for the cyclone season, which is unpredictable. Madam Speaker, I commend the Chief Minister for her foresight to bring our Territory in line with other states in Australia. It is better to be prepared now than sorry later. Dr BURNS (Health): Madam Speaker, I will be brief. As a former Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services, and along with other members, I am only too well aware of the preparations that are made for cyclones regarding disaster management, the special powers which Police, Fire and Emergency Services have during that time, the preparations they make for evacuation, and for warning people and safeguarding the wellbeing of the public. This bill is taking another step in that direction, which goes to the prevention of debris. As other speakers have said, debris is a major factor in injury and destruction during a cyclone. I know the member for Karama went through Cyclone Tracy and she mentioned the damage and the fear associated with debris. I started the ball rolling on this bill when I was Minister for Police, Fire and Emergency Services. It was largely on the basis of when I was doorknocking Mrs Edna Pratt of Wilson Crescent in Moil, an elderly lady who had been through the cyclone and was very concerned about debris in the neighbourhood and the significant damage it could do. She was understandably nervous because she had seen the damage that debris can do firsthand. She, rightly, said to me that