ALGA advocacy helps secure extra $50m disaster mitigation funding

Image shows people stuck on a car roof during a flash flood in Toowoomba in 2011. A semi-trailer is also stuck in floodwater. A green wheelie bit floats in the foreground.

Advocacy by the Australian Local Government Association and others has resulted in Labor and the Coalition agreeing to lift the Commonwealth’s proposed Emergency Response Fund to $200 million a year from $150m, with the extra funding dedicated to mitigation.

ALGA’s consistent advocacy over several years on the need for targeted mitigation funding included a submission to a Senate inquiry which emphasised that new legislation to create a natural disasters emergency response fund ought to focus on mitigation measures before a calamity occurs, rather than only on recovery efforts.

“We’re very pleased with the Commonwealth’s decision and it’s a testament to the strong, persistent advocacy of ALGA,” ALGA President, David O’Loughlin, said.

“ALGA has long called for the establishment of a targeted disaster mitigation program at a level of $200 million per annum for four years.

“We know that this extra money from the Commonwealth will make a real difference to communities as they try to reduce the consequences ahead of the next natural disaster.”

The Commonwealth decision, reflecting an agreement with the Opposition, acts on proposals from ALGA and other inquiry respondents, including the Insurance Council of Australia, calling for a $200 million per year mitigation fund which the Productivity Commission said in 2014 was needed.

The Productivity Commission’s study of five years ago said 97 percent of disaster funding went into reconstruction and recovery, with three percent on mitigation and community resilience measures.

The Commonwealth will spend up to $200 million annually, beyond what is already available to fund emergency response and natural disaster recovery and preparedness, Natural Disaster and Emergency Management Minister, David Littleproud, and Finance Minister, Senator Mathias Cormann, said in a joint statement.

Types of support available will include pre-disaster and emergency preparedness initiatives, additional recovery grants, economic aid packages and support to affected communities or industry sectors to help respond to and build resilience to natural disasters, their statement added.

The Opposition agreed to support the Government’s Emergency Response Fund bills in the Senate after the Commonwealth’s commitment to increase funding for measures such as flood levees, sea walls or fire breaks.

The extra $50m represented a 33 percent increase in the size of the funds available, and guarantees funding for mitigation works before disasters hit, Senator Murray Watt, Labor’s Shadow Minister for Natural Disaster and Emergency Management said.

Image: People trapped on a car roof in Toowoomba during 2011 flash floods. Credit: Timothy Kingbob 86/Flickr/Wikipedia.