Power Outages Telecommunications

LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL

February 15, 2017

POWER OUTAGES, TELECOMMUNICATIONS

 The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (14:42):  I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Emergency Services a question on the topic of engagement with and support for resilient communities in the Adelaide Hills.

            Leave granted.

 The Hon. T.A. FRANKS:  In late 2016, in the month of December, communities in the Adelaide Hills were impacted by storms and subsequent power outages. Those storms and those power outages left people without power, water and communications, and all of the consequent flowon effects of that, for as long as five days in some cases.

 The Adelaide Hills community, however, is a very strong and resilient community and, rather than pointing fingers and laying blame, they got together on 12 January to find out how they could respond better to these challenges, in the hope of finding some answers. I attended that meeting on 12 January in Mylor, as did the federal member for Mayo, the members for Heysen, Kavel and Bragg, and many mayors, deputy mayors and local councillors. It was a constructive meeting, but a meeting that was quite a revelation.

 The SA Power Networks information to those communities, and to the telcos and other providers, was faulty in this time. Community residents, the telcos and many other stakeholders were told time and again that the power was about to come on, and they would think that it would be just a few hours away, and time and again it was delayed and, as I say, in some cases for as long as five days, leaving people without water, without power, without telephones (either mobile or landlines), without food, because it had spoiled, and in some cases even unable to get out of their houses because trees were blocking their pathways. It was a dangerous situation. It was a situation where the communications systems and the emergency response failed that community.

 I must commend the minister because his office has today responded to some of the questions raised by that community meeting. My questions to the minister are:

  1. Does he support the concept that creating resilient communities requires responsive governments?
  2. Will he show the response of this government by engaging with the Adelaide Hills resilient communities group in not only attending the follow-up meeting this Thursday night, but working with them to see if they can run a pilot project, fulfilling some of the recommendations of the Burns report as to how communities can best respond to these crises?
  3. Will he provide that update in the next sitting week?

 The Hon. P. MALINAUSKAS (Minister for Police, Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Emergency Services, Minister for Road Safety) (14:45):  I thank the Hon. Tammy Franks for her important questions. One of the key themes that came out of the Burns review, which the government commenced post the 28 September event last year, was the need for us, as a community generally, to look to successful efforts being undertaken by the emergency services sector in a number of jurisdictions around the world, particularly in New Zealand, to embrace the concept of community resilience in its planning.

 I think most South Australians, and indeed Australians generally, understand that where you have a significant emergency weather event that emergency services cannot be there instantaneously. We have an extraordinarily well-resourced emergency services sector, with both paid and unpaid workers out there diligently attending any emergency as it arises. Despite having an incredibly well-resourced sector, they can't be everywhere all of the time, so there is a need for community members themselves to try to have a degree of resilience in order to be able to deal with situations that may not be life-threatening. For those events that occur that do result in a life-threatening impact, then of course those people will be responded to very quickly by our emergency services sector. But for those non-life-threatening occurrences, having a degree of resilience is important for the community.

 I commend the Hills community, to which the Hon. Tammy Franks refers, for taking that on board and contemplating what they can do as a community to become more resilient. Of course, any ideas that come out of their working group, as a community organisation, we are happy and keen to hear about. The government, of course, is in the process of developing a thorough, cogent and comprehensive response to the Burns review. A number of recommendations within the Burns review speak to the questions the Hon. Tammy Franks has asked. Whenever my office receives correspondence or specific requests from any particular group along these lines we will respond as quickly as we can.

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