Rain-ravaged communities in Greater Sydney should brace for what could be the worst flooding in the past 18 months, the federal emergency management minister says. 

Senator Murray Watt says the federal government has committed more defence force support following a request overnight from the NSW government.

Two ADF night-time helicopters and an additional 100 troops will be deployed on Monday to assist during the emergency, totalling 200 defence personnel.

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There were already 100 ADF troops assisting in northwest Sydney.

“Over the last couple of years there’s been some instances where sometimes decisions were a bit slow and people paid the price of that,” Senator Watt told ABC radio on Monday.

“This time, we’ve made a really conscious effort to make sure that resources are on the ground ahead of time so they can be used very quickly when they’re really needed.”

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said while he had not yet spoken to the prime minister about the unfolding crisis, the federal and state emergency ministers were coordinating their response.

“We have worked with the Commonwealth government to get ADF support on the ground immediately, providing essential support, going from door-to-door, providing instructions and advice to those people who are flood-affected,” he told reporters on Monday.

“The fact that we have had … the ADF on the ground straightaway is incredibly pleasing and you can certainly see that has improved from the last flooding events we have had earlier in the year. 

“We can always learn from events of the past to make sure we do better in the future.”

Senator Watt warned the latest flood event could be the worst in the past 18 months.

“The latest information we have is that there’s a very good chance that the flooding will be worse than any of the other three floods that those areas had in the last 18 months,” he said.

“The other worrying aspect to this is that there are areas that haven’t flooded before in the region in the last 18 months or so, which could well flood this time.”

The Labor minister was critical of the former Liberal-National government’s approach to disaster preparedness and response. 

But federal and state agencies had learned from past mistakes and were better at cooperating to respond to such events, he added.

The government announced an overhaul of Australia’s disaster recovery agencies on Friday and will merge Emergency Management Australia and the National Recovery and Resilience Agency from September 1. 

“We will have one organisation at the federal level responsible for everything from preparing for disasters, to responding to them, to recovery and then resilience for the future,” Senator Watt said. 

“Anything that we can do to improve that sort of coordination at the national level has got to be a good thing.”

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Peter Fray
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