Fire recovery officer quit after five days

John Craig, pictured with the mayor of Snowy Valleys Council James Hayes. Mr Craig quit his job as bushfire recovery officer just five days in.

The man employed by council to manage the bushfire recovery effort quit after just one week.

John Craig resigned from the position of Snowy Valleys Council Bushfire Recovery Officer.

He was in the position from February 17-21.

Mr Craig, who has been involved with local government for half a century, claimed he was treated like a novice, not permitted to speak to the media or politicians, and that the position was not granted the high-level status he believes it warrants.

He said that during the week in which he was in the position, the recovery centres at Batlow, Tumbarumba, Talbingo and Adelong were established and are operating successfully.

“This is due to the innovation and diligence of the staff involved who often worked without adequate resources,” he said.

He said he found the style of management by the council as one he couldn’t “contemplate enduring for more than a week let alone six months or beyond”.

He believes council did not afford the position the status it deserves.

“The role of the Recovery Manager is high level and requires a great deal of problem solving and thinking outside the box to ensure the community is the focus of recovery,” he said.

“The style of management …  is the opposite. Every issue or request is dealt with in a black and white style and I experienced many decisions in the week that led me to believe there was no intent to think creatively or value the recovery manager position.

“It was noted when I was appointed that I have vast experience, knowledge and a proven track record in high level management and disaster recovery. None of this is acknowledged in the way the role is being managed.

“Recovery Managers across the state are given high-level short-term status within the councils they are contracted to and that is far from the situation at Snowy Valleys Council. The position would normally report directly to the CEO but not in this case.”

Mr Craig said he was given a list of duties three days into the role and told that key performance indicators would be developed against these, and claims this typifies the lack of understanding of the role by SVC.

He put his resignation in on February 21 and says he has not heard from Council since.

He said that he believed that SVC’s Tumbarumba chambers was the logical place for the position to be basedbut was told it would not be available, and that he was not authorised to speak to the media or politicians.

“I didn’t need the money; I just felt I had to help people,” Mr Craig said.

He has worked in local government for 50 years, including 25 years at director level, and ran a flood recovery centre in Wagga in 2012.  

In a written statement issued yesterday, the council stated it had been surprised to receive Mr Craig’s resignation five days into his role as Recovery Manager.

The statement noted that the Recovery Manager position is funded by the NSW Government and was established by the council to ensure ongoing management of state-funded recovery assistance points and their availability to the wider community.

“Given the long road to recovery ahead and the different, often highly localised response requirements and needs across Snowy Valleys, Councillors and Snowy Valleys Council staff have been and will continue to be the key leads in advocating for funding, communicating with finding solutions to community problems and ‘thinking outside of the box’,” the council stated.

“The establishment and management of the initial recovery mobile meetings, recovery assistance points and community recovery committees by Snowy Valleys Council’s existing staff, have been praised by the Office of Emergency Management for being collaborative, comprehensive and effective.

“Snowy Valleys Council staff appointed to the Recovery Team have been doing a fantastic job managing the initial mobile outreach meetings and the set up and operations of the recovery assistance points.

This team, along with the support of many other staff members right across Council, have since January visited 17 localities and met with more than 200 community members in the initial recovery period, undertaken countless outreach visits to individuals to properties who need assistance, coordinated external offers of help, donations and government funding, worked with multiple government agencies to have their staff and information available when needed by our community, coordinated grant applications and visits from government representatives, set up the Recovery Assistance Points and helped more than 150 people through these points.”