The future of funding for natural disaster relief and recovery may be uncertain thanks to the Productivity Commission’s current inquiry but it seems at least one aspect of the debate has all involved in furious agreement. The commission, state governments and local councils are all pushing for a greater role for the concept of “betterment” in future disaster funding policy. It’s not hard to see why. In Queensland alone, more than $5.4 billion has been spent restoring local government assets destroyed or damaged by natural disasters since 2008. Adopting a “betterment’’ approach to disaster mitigation should mean that there will be less need to spend big on restoring such assets when disaster strikes. Regional economies will be stronger, communities will bounce back faster, and government coffers richer. Yet, while the Federal and State governments have earmarked millions of dollars for spending on betterment programs, to date there has been no permanent betterment funding program.
The LGAQ’s 10 Point Policy Plan for the next election calls on the parties contesting the poll to endorse a $100 million a year funding program for betterment and disaster mitigation. This would be made up of $40 million from the state, $40 million from the Commonwealth and $20 million from councils.
Communities hit by the spate of natural disasters since 2008 are seeing the benefits of betterment programs. In Bundaberg, crucial roads and bridges damaged by the 2013 floods have been rebuilt to a higher standard thanks to targeted betterment funding. The Bribie Island seawall at Bongaree, damaged in a storm surge last year, is being strengthened. And in the Central Highlands region, gravel floodways on 10 roads that have been damaged time and again by repeated floods are now being upgraded with strengthened concrete.
These initial investments are all aimed at avoiding a bigger repair bill in the future, so that regional economies can recover as quickly as possible from the unavoidable events that come with being in this part of the world.