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Who can believe no less than 138 fires have been burning across Queensland this week, across a vast area, impacting on several communities, with thousands forced to evacuate and some areas facing catastrophic fire danger ratings. At the opposite end of the scale, unseasonably heavy rain in Sydney and parts of New South Wales this week has caused flash flooding, power outages and travel delays as a severe thunderstorm hit the state.

These devastating events mark a destructive and unprecedented start to the severe weather season; they are and will continue to have significant impact on those councils and communities in the days and months to come.

Local government has always proven itself to be resilient in the face of adversity and councils have a proven track record for our ability to support communities in times of desperate need. The key role ahead for local government is to continue to play a leading role in response and recovery efforts in collaboration with other agencies to restore and rebuild communities.

These natural disasters are likely to be the first to fall under the new Disaster Recover Funding Arrangements 2018, which came into effect on 1 November. The arrangements introduce a new Category B funding model for the rebuilding of essential public assets, which affords greater autonomy for state and local governments to deliver practical reconstruction solutions, reduce red tape and assure appropriate financial support following an event. The new Category A measure allows jurisdictions to engage a Community Recovery Officer early in the recovery effort to assist individuals, families and communities receiving emergency assistance.

I encourage you to get across the new arrangements at this link https://www.disasterassist.gov.au/Pages/related-links/disaster-recovery-funding-arrangements-2018.aspx and reach out to your state/territory local government association with any questions on how these arrangements currently apply in your state.

In many cases we know the impacts and subsequent costs of a disaster can be reduced with targeted mitigation funding, with betterment funding as a core element. Investing in targeted capital improvements in the good times can help prevent damage and destruction in the bad.

ALGA persists in its enduring calls for the Commonwealth to act on this issue and fund a targeted disaster mitigation program at a level of $200 million per annum for four years. The capacity of communities to identify, mitigate and respond to natural disasters is critical. In the face of an increase in extreme weather events, rebuilding infrastructure to its original specifications and condition is not sufficient. Upfront investment or betterment funding following a disaster will save millions of dollars in years to come by ensuring that infrastructure is rebuilt to withstand new climate-change realities.

I would like to finish by extending a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the firefighters, first responders, volunteers, council staff and everyone working hard on the ground in the recovery efforts for fire and flood affected communities in Queensland and NSW. Communities rely heavily on their councils for the on-the-ground recovery in time of great need and you will be the cornerstone of the community clean up and rebuilding effort. Our thoughts are with those councils and communities who have experienced devastating and traumatic circumstances over past weeks.

And don’t be afraid to reach out if you need help, your local government neighbours will always be willing to help.

 

Mayor David O’Loughlin

 ALGA President



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