Mr DEBUS (Blue Mountains—Attorney General, Minister for the Environment, Minister for Emergency Services, and Minister Assisting the Premier on the Arts) [2.15 p.m.]: I have just returned from visiting the storm-ravaged suburb of Dapto in the Illawarra, and I can inform the House that the vicious winds that swept through the region overnight have caused a great deal of damage. On advice from the State Emergency Service [SES], the Treasurer has approved the storm-affected areas being declared a natural disaster area. The areas covered by the declaration stretch from the Illawarra and the Southern Highlands in the south to the lower Hunter in the north. There is scope to extend the declaration if that is appropriate.
As at 2 o'clock today the SES had received 1,200 requests for assistance. Almost half of those tasks are now completed. This vicious windstorm caused extensive damage in suburbs in 30 local government areas. Wind speeds of well over 100 kilometres per hour were recorded in some areas. The Bureau of Meteorology advises that strong winds will continue throughout the day in the Illawarra and Sydney areas. Wollongong, Shellharbour, Goulburn, Wollondilly and the Sutherland shire have suffered the most severe damage. Roofs have been completely blown off some houses and fallen tree branches, flying roofing and debris have caused major damage to other properties. Large trees have been uprooted and have toppled onto houses, cars and powerlines. It is nothing short of a miracle that no-one was injured in the storm.
In Dapto, the worst hit suburb, a steel roof was lifted from a house and ended up 200 metres down the road wrapped around a power pole. With the assistance of New South Wales Fire Brigades and the Rural Fire Service, 300 SES volunteers have been in the field since last night and will continue to work throughout the days to come. Out-of-area SES response groups from the lower Hunter and Sydney northern divisions are also in attendance. Once again, we thank our dedicated volunteers, who are working in difficult and often dangerous conditions to help protect the community.
Mr STONER (Oxley) [2.20 p.m.]: Severe weather conditions, with winds of over 100 kilometres per hour, occurred yesterday and continue today. The Bureau of Meteorology has issued a gale warning for New South Wales coastal waters from Montague Island to Ulladulla and a strong wind warning for waters from Ulladulla to Port Macquarie.
Mr SPEAKER:Order! There is far too much audible conversation in the Chamber. That warning includes the honourable member for Murrumbidgee and the honourable member for Camden.
Mr STONER: The poor weather conditions will continue due to a deep low south of the Tasman Sea directing a vigorous south-west stream over coastal waters.
Mr SPEAKER:Order! I call the honourable member for Murrumbidgee to order.
Mr STONER: The weather has caused significant damage to houses and property on the New South Wales coast, particularly in the Illawarra and the town of Dapto. Roofs have been lifted off and trees have fallen down. It is only fitting that the area has been declared a natural disaster area. Weather events such as these are considered by experts to be more likely to occur during spring in an El Nino period. Unfortunately, we may experience further adverse weather conditions. The Coalition congratulates the magnificent and unstinting efforts of the State Emergency Service, Rural Fire Service volunteers and members of New South Wales Fire Brigades. Those unsung heroes, through hard work and dedication, help people who have been adversely affected by savage weather, such as that which occurred yesterday.