As NSW recovers from the 2019 bushfires, 2020 floods, the mouse plague and COVID-19, head of Resilience NSW Shane Fitzsimmons has forecast more challenges to come for the region.
Speaking at the Legacy Business and Community Lunch in Wollongong on Friday, special guest Shane Fitzsimmons said La Nina presented a threat to an already saturated NSW, particularly if a dry spell follows.
"Now we are seeing the Bureau of Meteorology confirm the metrics are aligning to say La Nina is one of the dominant climate drivers of this season," he said.
"La Nina typically identifies over the spring and summer months with above average rainfall on the east coast of Australia and that includes NSW.
"I think we are seeing the material effects of that with the extraordinary rainfalls we are seeing across NSW over the last couple of weeks," he said.
The former RFS commissioner, who led the 2019 bushfire operations, said the area could see a double whammy of floods and fires if the conditions allowed.
"We have already seen significant rainfall in the western parts of NSW in the winter. There has been wonderful agricultural production, there has been a lot of grass fuel growth.
"While the timber side of the fire risk across the Great Dividing Range is going to be like a normal fire season, there is the potential for above normal activity in the grassland country west of the great divide particularly if we see a dry spell. Those grassland fuels dry out very quickly and they are very susceptible to fire," he said.
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His comments came two years and two days after the Currowan Fire, which claimed three lives, including two firefighters, 312 homes and almost 500,000 hectares of bush.
It marked an "unprecedented" bushfire season, which ultimately took 26 lives.
"Sadly, seven of them were firefighters, four were volunteers, and three were aircrew who died when their plane crashed down in southern NSW," Commissioner Fitzsimmons said.
"On the flipside to that, I look at the enormous pride and the faith that was restored. You saw the true sign of humanity shine through, that spirit of mateship, that wanting to come together to look after each other, to look after neighbours, to look after your own community and communities much further afield.
"What has followed since the fires with COVID, with storms and floods, with mouse plagues, it has been a very trying time for the people of NSW and indeed across the world. To know that we are at our best when we find ourselves confronted with the worst through pulling together is pretty inspirational."
In Commissioner Fitzsimmons' new role as head of Resilience NSW ((formerly the NSW Office of Emergency Management), he has been building a taskforce of 200 people to provide support and recovery efforts for those who have suffered from bushfires, floods and COVID.
He said the new agency's primary responsibility was to aid recovery, and the focus most recently had been on floods, COVID-19 and the mouse plague.
Commissioner Fitzsimmons was speaking at Legacy Wollongong's first fundraising lunch in two years. The organisation supports 386 families of former veterans in the Illawarra.