German tourists Caroline Herrmann and Nane Maurer sunbaking near a wrecked boat off the Airlie Beach Esplanade after Cyclone Debbie
German tourists Caroline Herrmann and Nane Maurer sunbaking near a wrecked boat off the Airlie Beach Esplanade after Cyclone Debbie Wesley Monts

Debbie review: tourists left in the dark

TOURISTS struggled to understand whether evacuation orders were compulsory during Cyclone Debbie, a Queensland Government review into the disaster has found.

The Cyclone Debbie Review Action Plan made 10 recommendations that the government had agreed to support or support in principle. The review looked at the response to the initial storm, the flash flooding in south-east Queensland, and river flooding around Rockhampton.

Queensland Emergency Management Inspector-General Iain MacKenzie found messages to tourists were not understood and it was unclear as to who had to pay for tourists to be placed in shelter.

"There was confusion over the meaning of voluntary and directed evacuations. Issues were also identified concerning who had responsibility for the tourists once they had been evacuated and where they were to go,” the report read.

"The relevant authorities should work with the tourism sector to clarify future arrangements for evacuation.

"In particular they should look closely at differentiating voluntary and directed evacuations in their messaging, ensure the differences are explained to the community in pre-season campaigns, and that necessary information is passed on to tourists.”

The Queensland government supported the recommendation and said a review of "existing communications protocols for tourists operators and tourists” would be undertaken.

The review praised Queensland's overall disaster response system but said more could be done to increase information sharing between local and state governments.

Mackay mayor Greg Williamson and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk disagreed on the state disaster centre's decision to evacuate 25,000 Mackay residents.

The report said this was because of "inconsistencies between information from authoritative sources such as local governments and the Bureau of Meteorology”.

Police, Fire and Emergency Services Minister Mark Ryan said the report backed up the state's disaster response system.

"When I tasked the inspector-general to undertake this review in April, I was seeking assurance for the people of Queensland that there was a robust approach to continuous improvement across all aspects of Queensland's disaster management system,” Mr Ryan said.

"I am greatly encouraged by the findings and recommendations in the inspector-general's review and believe the disaster management system is continuing to evolve and improve and will remain at the forefront of disaster management in Australia.” - NewsRegional