Page 235 - Week 01 - Thursday, 10 February 2022

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power outage dragged on and on and eventually mobile phones’ batteries died. Online updates from Evoenergy were often wildly inaccurate, promising that power would be restored to certain suburbs later in the day, but then this did not happen.

This information left residents confused and unsure how to act when it came to executing their own emergency plans. People who signed up for SMS updates from Evoenergy report never receiving them or, worse, being notified that their power had been restored even when it had not.

The government finally opened an information hub in Higgins, 48 hours after the storm, but the existence of this hub was not well known, with many west Belconnen residents telling me that they never would have known if I had not told them. On the third day of a widespread power outage, relying on Facebook and Twitter to get the word out is a low effort and an inadequate approach. When the hub opened, 2,400 households remained without power. The location of these houses was known, making something like a letterbox drop feasible, but nothing like this ever happened.

Second, and related to the first concern, residents have raised serious issues about the lack of a coordinated response designed to prevent the most vulnerable falling through the cracks. To reiterate, on 5 January government-controlled Evoenergy knew the location of the 2,400 households that were still without power, but it appears that this government took the decision not to have its community recovery team knock on a single door or visit a single street. I wish to emphasise that the very real risks inherent in this decision were well known.

On the third day after the storm hit, the government posted the following on social media:

Please look out for your neighbours at this time, especially whilst many are without power. Let them know where to get help … Not everyone will have access to this message, as they may not have power or a social media account. Please pass on this information.

Great advice, but simply not good enough.

One Canberran related to me that on the fourth day after the storm a terrified elderly woman ran out of her house seeking his assistance. Her husband was dependent on a life-saving device that was about to fail and she had no idea where to turn for help. We have no idea how many people like this couple felt completely abandoned by this government.

The third concern relates to the slowness of the emergency response. Residents had been without power for two full days before the government finally opened its information hub. In the beginning the services provided there were minimal, though eventually showers and laundry facilities were added.

As already noted, restoration of power took a very long time for a significant number of households. Residents have asked me whether the ACT government or Evoenergy sought help with this task from across the border. Others let me know that they had

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