Still unfinished business two years after April super storm lashed Maitland and Dungog | Editorial

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It’s been two years since the Lower Hunter plunged into chaos as one of the most serious weather events in the region’s recent history hit.

The 2015 April super storm claimed lives, destroyed homes and businesses, isolated communities and pulled the nation’s spotlight towards Maitland and Dungog – which were later declared natural disaster zones by the then NSW Premier Mike Baird.

The storm caused major floods, put the region’s roads to the test and had emergency crews – professionals and volunteers alike – working around the clock to minimise the impact as much as possible.

This weekend marks the second anniversary of the super storm.

Two years down the track, there is still plenty of unfinished business.

Repairs are still being performed on water-damaged roads.

The state and federal governments have announced in the past fortnight that they would raise the road at Testers Hollow, a major link between Maitland and Kurri Kurri that was under water for about two weeks after the super storm.

But that has come after extensive campaigning from the community and Fairfax Media.

Dungog Shire Council was given $1.1 million in February to repair and rebuild the 12 damaged residential units at Alison Court, where three people died during the disaster, but the facility remains largely in ruins.

The inquest into the deaths of three Dungog residents – Brian Wilson, Robin MacDonald and Colin “Spider” Webb – began to make their way through the court system this year.

The NSW Coroner’s Court scheduled directions hearings in recent weeks to determine whether a full Coronial inquest will go ahead. 

Residents of the Lower Hunter – particularly in the Maitland area – are no strangers to major floods. Aside from the infamous and severe 1955 flood, water has posed a problem for the region on several other occasions – more recently in 2007 and 2016, aside from the super storm.

It’s clear that the wheels turn slowly in the drawn-out aftermath of a disaster like the super storm.

The questions that needs to be addressed are: what has changed since April, 2015, with regard to how prepared we are for extreme weather and how can we use the lessons we have learnt from history to minimise the impact in the event of another disaster?