The 2021-22 high-risk weather season has arrived – along with renewed concerns about disaster preparedness and capability.
Our commitment to working with our communities to help them prepare for whatever this cyclone and bushfire season might throw up remains rock solid.
However, we need greater support and stronger partnerships across all tiers of Government, and are calling on the Commonwealth, states, and territories to urgently implement the Royal Commission’s recommendations on National Natural Disaster Arrangements, which were tabled in the Parliament 12 months ago last week.
We are particularly concerned that recommendation 11.1 in the Royal Commission’s report – directing state governments to take responsibility for the capability and capacity of councils to which they have delegated natural disaster preparation, response and recovery functions – remains in limbo.
Councils in regional areas where exposure to fires and floods is greatest – but whose budgets are often small – have no capacity to fund major mitigation measures or significantly increase preparedness and response to natural disasters.
I raised this issue at last Friday’s National Emergency Minister’s Meeting, which I attended on behalf of your ALGA, and I urge you to also speak to your local state and federal members about the support we require.
If our jurisdictions choose not to support local government, particularly in these challenging times of multiple disaster events, we cannot effectively prepare our communities for future disasters, and these events could devastate us financially.
We also need increased investment in mitigation, and ALGA continues to advocate for an annual $200 million disaster mitigation program for four years.
Besides supporting economic growth and job creation, each dollar spent on mitigation can save on average up to four times that in recovery and reconstruction costs. It’s a no-brainer.
The last few weeks have shone a spotlight on emissions reductions and our ability to accelerate national efforts at the local level.
I recently spoke on our capacity to help the Commonwealth deliver on its emissions targets at the Accelerating Action at COP26: Virtual Forum on 21 October convened by ALGA, ICLEI Oceania, and the Council of Capital City Lord Mayors.
A recent survey found that more than 70 percent of councils have set or are planning ambitious corporate or operational emissions reduction targets, while 80 percent have set or are investigating developing community-wide emissions reductions targets.
Our ability to meet community expectations for reduced carbon emissions, greater energy efficiency, and improved heat adaptation strategies is not in doubt, and I am hopeful that COP26, together with the Federal Government’s commitment to zero net emissions by 2050, will drive more partnerships and collaborations with local government on climate action.
In the lead up to the next federal election, we will be calling for a four-year $200 million Local Government Climate Response Partnership Fund, which would support us to reduce our own carbon footprint, as well as carbon emissions in our communities.
Thanks to federal Local Government Minister Kevin Hogan and Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt for a very positive meeting last week.
I outlined to them some of the many outstanding examples of our work and commitment on Closing the Gap, boosting COVID vaccination rates, and accelerating indigenous employment and self-determination, and both ministers responded positively.
The result will be closer engagement between ALGA and their respective offices and departments which will be helpful in our efforts to drive these important national objectives.
The announcement that ALGA will be a member of a federal task force to look at the impact of bank branch closures on regional communities is one I welcome.
The ripple effect that branch closures have on small communities and businesses is familiar to many of us.
It may be this is being driven largely by technological progress and can’t be reversed. If so, it underlines the need for our regional and rural communities to have equitable access to digital telecommunications.
I will be making this point plainly and clearly when the task force meets this month, as we work together towards ensuring no community is left behind.