Federal election blog: Rebuilding smarter after disasters
Among public agencies in Australia, the Productivity Commission’s reputation for integrity and rigour is second to none.
The inquiries it undertakes and the reports it produces are usually a good indicator of where the government of the day will direct its reform efforts.
One subject that the commission recently tackled but has had scant public airing its recommendations on the future of natural disaster funding, particularly when it comes to the concept of mitigation. (report link below)
Why mitigation? Because it could make the difference between spending millions of dollars on tackling disasters or spending tens of billions of dollars.
Time and again in recent decades, the bridges, water plants and other infrastructure destroyed by natural disasters has been rebuilt, only to be destroyed again the next cyclone and flood. Mitigation breaks that cycle because it recognises that, while building stronger, safer infrastructure might be more expensive in the short term, it is a good investment if it stays up and running during and after natural disasters strike.
The commission listed the benefits of an improved approach to disaster mitigation in its 2015 report: improved community safety and resilience, a reduction in damage to property, speedier recovery, and a reduction in overall costs to the national economy.
Despite this, the commission found that spending on mitigation was insignificant when compared with the huge amount spent on relief and recovery from disasters. For the Federal Government, the commission reported that mitigation spending amounted to just 3 percent of what it spent post-disaster in recent years.
The Commission urged the Federal Government to ensure mitigation funding to the states be increased to $200 million per year, matched by the states.
Importantly, it said: “Projects should not be limited to ‘hard’ mitigation like flood levees. ‘Soft’ mitigation, like community education and other preparedness measures, can yield significant benefits over time where it modifies behaviour and results in the avoidance of disaster risk”.
This is why the LGAQ is pushing for a proper commitment to disaster mitigation from all parties contesting this election.
Local Government Association of Queensland
LG House, 25 Evelyn Street, Newstead Qld 4006
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