Community excluded from Disaster Resilience Planning around Port Botany

from COAG National Disaster Resilience Statement 7 December 2009

A disaster resilient community is one that works together to understand and manage the risks that it confronts. Disaster resilience is the collective responsibility of all sectors of society, including all levels of government, business, the non-government sector and individuals. If all these sectors work together with a united focus and a shared sense of responsibility to improve disaster resilience, they will be far more effective than the individual efforts of any one sector.

For research supporting the need for community preparedness refer to the Australian Journal of Emergency Management

References to the need for community preparedness appear in the State Emergency Plan (see excerpts below) where there is an emphasis on risk communication

Consistent with the National Disaster Resilience Strategy, the community needs to be equally prepared as response agencies for the impacts of all hazards

Yet despite  Federal and State Government commitments community are excluded from the Emergency Planning process in this region – a region with a growing port (from 2 million to beyond 10 million TEU) and the biggest cluster of Major Hazard Facilities in NSW.

Correspondence to Ministers for Emergency Services, Director Generals of Premiers and Cabinet and the Premier have not elicited any commitment to engage the community.  Within a couple of weeks of this letter from Parliamentary Secretary to Minister Mike Gallagher  Geoff Provest 23 June 2013 a major event occurred

The 1km exclusion zone referred to in the video included residents in Matraville but there was no notification and no followup to describe to these residents and those within 2-3km how the incident had been handled and how greater collaboration might make for better handling in the future  – see more details of incident.  And the Botany Bay Precinct Emergency Plan which notably has no reference to community preparedness.
The most recent response received from Parliamentary Secretary to Minister Stuart Ayers,  Niall Blair,  was written after twice contacting Blair Comley, Director General of Premiers and Cabinet (replaced Chris Eccles who departed after Mike Baird became Premier).       Niall Blair 21 January 2015


Extracts from NSW Emergency Plan


108 Consistent with the State Emergency and Rescue Management Act 1989 (SERM Act), the objectives of the EMPLAN are to:a) provide clarity as to command and control, roles and coordination of functions in emergency management across all levels NSW State Emergency Management Plan b) emphasise risk management across the full spectrum of prevention, preparation, response and recoveryc) emphasise community engagement in the development and exercise of plans as well as

in their operational employment  d) ensure that the capability and resourcing requirements of these responsibilities are understood.

116 Community and Stakeholder Engagement: Community and stakeholder engagement is a critical aspect of emergency management across the full spectrum of prevention, preparation, response and recovery. Agencies will engage with the community and stakeholders which will improve community understanding of these arrangements and promote disaster resilience.

119 Disaster Resilience: Disaster resilience is an outcome derived from a sharing of responsibility between all levels of government, business, the non-government sector and the community who then act on this basis prior to, during and after a disaster. Disaster resilience is significantly increased by active planning and preparation. A shared understanding of the disaster risks at community level is a vital precursor.

121 The nexus between community and government to achieve resilience will vary, but should as much as possible be via the existing channels that work for each community.

Community and Stakeholder Engagement

139 The community is a vital part of the New South Wales emergency management arrangements. Agencies preparing plans under the EMPLAN will engage with the community and stakeholders, promote community understanding of the hazards they face, seek their input into the development of plans, especially at the local level, and involve communities and stakeholders where appropriate in exercising these plans.

140 This engagement enhances resilience, reduces exposure to hazards through mitigation, maximises community preparation to act effectively in the face of emergencies, and therefore allows the emergency management arrangements to target their efforts at the places, times and populations most vulnerable to a disaster.

Community Warnings

141 Timely and accurate warning information for the public is vital during emergencies. These warnings should include advice about options and the likely impacts of an event.

142 Combat Agencies have statutory responsibilities to issue warnings and public information regarding their particular hazards. All agencies should consider the provision of public  information in their planning processes.

143 Public information and warnings are disseminated pre, during and post-event using the full suite of traditional and social media. The necessity for different organisations to issue a warning pertinent to their agency role may be triggered by the same event, and efforts should be made to ensure that appropriate coordination occurs to ensure comprehensive information is issued.


602 Disaster preparation is the responsibility of the whole community; government and not-forprofit agencies, business and industry, local communities, individuals and households. Preparation activities delivered in partnership between all agencies, organisations and communities help build engaged and resilient communities.

603 Key elements of preparation include:


capability development



building community resilience

risk communication.

606 Sub plans detail roles and responsibilities of all relevant agencies and how command and control is exercised and include arrangements for handover of responsibility between Local, Region and State levels. Where there are tiered plans at State, Region and Local level, these must be integrated. Plans should be developed with input from the community and include the community’s role.

Building Community Resilience

614 Consistent with the National Disaster Resilience Strategy, the community needs to be equally prepared as response agencies for the impacts of all hazards and in particular, the impacts of natural disasters.

615 Resilient communities are better able to withstand a crisis event and have an enhanced ability to recover from residual impacts.

616 Community engagement may be hazard specific or take an all-hazards approach. Regardless of the approach, it is important that messages are consistent and coordinated across all programs. Community education and awareness campaigns aim to:

develop awareness of the nature and potential impacts of hazards

promote personal responsibility for managing risks and preparation for emergencies

develop awareness of emergency management arrangements and assistance measures

encourage community participation in volunteering and infrastructure protection activities.

Public Awareness

The process of informing the community as to the nature of the hazard and actions needed to save lives and property prior to and in the event of disaster.


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2 Responses to Community excluded from Disaster Resilience Planning around Port Botany

  1. admin says:

    Correspondence to Chris Eccles (then Director General Premiers and Cabinet) in 2013
    From: Lynda
    Sent: Friday, September 20, 2013 2:32 PM
    To: Chris Eccles
    Cc: xxxxxx
    Subject: Reply to your Email

    To Mr Chris Eccles Director General Premier and Cabinet,
    copied Commander Karen McCathy; Mr Ben Lim, Chair of Botany Industrial Park CCC; Dr Paul Brown, Chair CPRC; Mr Andrew Helps; South Ward Residents

    Dear Mr Eccles,

    After a major fire in Botany on June 1st I wrote to Minister Gallagher regarding emergency preparedness. I also telephoned on the 3rd June for an appointment for myself and Ms Chantal Snell. I was told to put my request in writing. I detailed issues of cumulative risk identification, risk education, emergency event community preparedness, emergency event community management and post event community education. I followed up my request on a couple of occasions by email and I finally received a reply (addressed as ‘reply to your email’) from a Parliamentary Secretary advising that Mr Gallaher was too busy (see attached). There was no offer to speak to an adviser or to take appropriate action.

    There was an Extraordinary Meeting of the CPRC (see details: ) held in response to the June 1 event and at that meeting a number of questions eg. regarding cumulative risk, were tabled for response by Fire and Rescue. We are still awaiting those responses.

    Since that time there have been other ‘events’ in our area with the most recent occurring on the weekend. Here is one report from a resident:

    “Alkatuff having some fairly big explosions and huge flames – mixed information. Lots and lots of emergency sirens, police in our street telling us that there was a gas leak that they had to light to resolve and Alkatuff saying something else about an electrical circuit that tripped and that they had to shut the plant down causing the flaring made the house shake several times and loads of people rang me in concern! We still don’t know who to ring – I rang the EPA hotline and they said ring 000, the BIP hotline were just more interested in getting information from me and the police reassured one of my neighbours who had obviously rung them. The air smelt like sulphur. It seems to be happening more and more often.”

    There was nothing on the Fire and Rescue Twitter and nothing on the Botany Command Facebook about this.

    When is the Government going to take its Emergency Planning seriously and ensure that communities are prepared, kept informed during events and included in post event consultation as per obligations under Objective (c) of the Plan dated December 2012: and Chapter 4 of NSW 2021

    At the Kooragang Inquiry held at Parliament House I listened to the Premier speak about the need for a change of culture.

    we are determined [he said] to set some clear goals and to have our bureaucracy work to those goals, and of course, focus on outcomes. One of the issues that I think Mr O’Reilly correctly has elevated is one that has always concerned me, which is making sure that the public interest is front and centre of all they do….there are always going to be fine judgements here,but the culture does need change.

    That was almost 2 years ago.

    Lynda Newnam

  2. Carlos says:

    Its frightening, what would we do if something extreme happend.

    When the fuel leak happened back in July 2013 I heard the alarm at around 1.20am did not know what it was. It was very loud, unusual, usually its the beeps clunks around the ports, container yards or inccidents at Orica and surrounds. I went to have a look as I was concerned at 1.30 am, myself and my neighbours heard the siren the loud noise of the siren could be heard all around Matraville, Chifley, La Perouse but we had no idea what was going on or what to do. I followed the sound of the noise with my car and once at Botany Road I saw the many many emergency services dealing with the incident from Botany Road, I was there for about half an hour to 45 minutes, there was also a tow truck and driver and also a camera man and another person, we were looking at the emergency services in action pointing the hoses toward a large refinery cylinder, we did mot know what was going on at the time and were there for a while, it seemed that all was under control by the emergency services fire, ambulance, police and more. It was like an action movie, for a moment did not seem real, we didnt really know what was going on at the time, no one came to move us on, after around 45 minutes I then left. Later I heard on radio it was a fuel leak with fire, I took pictures with my phone but did not turn out very well.The point is that the area should have been shut down as soon as the incident was detected, I thought something went wrong with the ports but it was the fuel refinery, it would be great for Randwick , Botany Councils, EPA to send out to the local residents within a few Kilometres of the Orica, all Port Botany plants fuel and other a pamphlet regarding emergency evacuations process. Also ongoing information in the local papers and mail drops, even a fridge magnet with relevent information in plain english. Not many people know what to do if a serious incident that can seriously affect our safety and health occurs. How will we be notified, informed to evacuate, to where, what about our homes, I later heard what was going on through the radio 2GB. The Emergency Services are amazing but lets not take it for granted that people know what to do if somthing really bad, really serious happens. All we know is call the police or fire, people did then but we did not know what happend after that for a while. Lucky the many emergency service in attendance had it under control. More clear information on ongoing basis is needed to go out to the public living within a few Kilometers of these large industries which can be a threat to our safety if things went wrong. Regards, Carlos

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