The ALGA Strategic Plan 2020-23 identifies a key priority for ALGA is to support councils and communities to prevent, prepare, respond to, and recover from natural disasters and adverse events, including drought and pandemics. This is building community resilience to respond to threats and strengthen community wellbeing and connectedness.
Community resilience is the sustained ability of communities to withstand, adapt to, and recover from adversity.
A resilient community is socially connected and has infrastructure that can withstand disaster and foster community recovery. Resilient communities promote individual and community wellbeing and cohesiveness to strengthen their communities for everyday, as well as extreme, challenges.
According to the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities, the total economic costs of disasters in 2015 exceeded $9 billion. This figure is projected to double by 2030, and to reach $33 billion a year by 2050. These projections are based only on economic and population growth and do not include the impacts of climate change.
The Business Roundtable also estimated that expenditure on mitigation of $5.3 billion over the period to 2050 (in present value) would generate budget savings of $12.2 billion for all levels of government, including $9.8 billion for the Commonwealth government.
One dollar spent on mitigation can save at least $2 in recovery costs.
In its 2014 inquiry into natural disaster funding, the Productivity Commission found funding for reconstruction and recovery consumed 97% of disaster funding in Australia, compared with only 3% that went towards mitigation and community resilience measures. The Productivity Commission highlighted the value of disaster mitigation expenditure and raised the idea of a $200 million per annum mitigation program. The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority and the Insurance Council of Australia, as recently as September 2019, have called on the Australian government to adopt the Productivity Commissions recommendation.
ALGA has also consistently advocated for the establishment of a targeted disaster mitigation program at a level of $200 million per annum for four years. In addition to disaster mitigation, such funding would have co-benefits that accrue even in the absence of a natural disaster. These co-benefits support economic growth and social capital in Australian communities and are an important driver of regional investment decisions. They may include:
- Short-term employment;
- More reliable services;
- Regional growth associated with investment;
- More connected communities; and
- Lower insurance premiums.
The social costs of natural disasters equal the more traditionally defined economic costs – and are sometimes even higher. Natural disasters have wide-ranging social impacts both immediately and into the long term. These impacts are on health and wellbeing, education, employment and community networks. They may persist over a person’s lifetime and profoundly affect communities. Extensive research reveals that resilient and prepared communities are more likely to withstand the negative impacts of natural disasters and that strong social capital correlates to a more effective recovery.
Funding for disaster mitigation should not only focus on infrastructure but also include programs that address social and psychological measures including community awareness, education and engagement programs that enhance social capital by building social networks and connections.
ALGA’s policy priorities are:
- A disaster mitigation fund of $200 million per annum over four years.
- Funding to allow every local government to develop a resilience and emergency management plan.
- Improvements to existing disaster funding programs to allow for betterment, inclusion of community infrastructure and funding for council-supported community relief and recovery centres.
- Funding for coastal protection
- Increased, drought funding for drought affected councils.
- Extended recovery funding to address long-term economic and social impacts