After a week of torrential rain and floods, the Wyong SES put out a call to the community through its Facebook page asking for volunteers to help fill sandbags for desperate residents.
What’s being referred to as a ‘one in a thousand-year’ weather event has meant all hands on deck are called on to pitch in.
Well, not quite.
Adding to the grief for local SES operators was a decision by the NSW state government and SES leadership to only allow fully vaccinated members of the community to roll up their sleeves and fill the sandbags.
“At a unit level that’s nothing to do with us, we just cop all the flak from the people who have been harassing us on Facebook and sending us abusive messages,” said Tim Keown, Wyong SES Deputy Unit Commander.
“We’ve been doing massive sandbag operations, a couple of hundred tonnes of sand has gone out into the community and we’ve had about 2,500 requests for assistance right across the central coast between Wyong and Gosford.“
Frustrated locals across the flood-affected regions of NSW have taken to social media to express their disbelief that, in a time of genuine crisis in their community and despite being willing and capable, they’re not allowed to help.
The people impacted by the disaster I talked to on the streets didn’t appear to have any issues if an unvaccinated person were to help them out in their time of need.
“Volunteers are as rare as hen’s teeth and if someone is prepared I don’t care if they’ve been vaxxed or not,” said one local I talked to.
“It wouldn’t worry me,” said another. “We’re kind of passed all that aren’t we, really? “I couldn’t care less.” said a third.
With even more wild weather forecast to hit some of the same regions in the coming days and weeks, it puts the focus back on the NSW’s leadership to address the issues at hand.
As Stuart Gadenne, a former ADF special forces officer who isn’t allowed to assist the SES under the rules said to me, the state government needs to drastically reconsider this decision and take a different approach.
“A logical triage of needs for human beings on the ground … Is the threat of spreading this disease, Covid-19, is that greater than the threat as to what is actually happening to people and what the fallout that is going to happen if they don’t get enough assistance up here which could be catastrophic,” he said.