New natural disaster agency will help rebuilding

The NSW Rural Fire Service has warned serious grassfires could break out across the state as recent wet weather boosts grass growth.

The NSW Rural Fire Service has warned serious grassfires could break out across the state as recent wet weather boosts grass growth. Photo: AAP/Dean Lewins

More than half a billion dollars will be given to a new agency overseeing national responses to major natural disasters, to help communities recover and rebuild.

The federal government will create the National Recovery and Resilience Agency (NRRA) to both provide relief to communities and advise it on how to mitigate the impacts of future weather events — following through on one of the recommendations of the bushfire royal commission.

It will be given $600 million to fund projects to bushfire and cyclone-proof houses, and build levees in disaster-prone areas.

The money would also be put towards improving telecommunications infrastructure to better withstand disasters.

“In the past two years, Australians have faced floods, bushfires, cyclones, drought and now the COVID-19 pandemic and I’m determined to keep Australians safe and support the recovery of communities and regions right across Australia,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a statement.

The grim reality for some of Australia’s bushfire survivors
Ronnie Eagles outside her caravan on her burnt out property.
Ronnie and Trevor live in a caravan without running water or a toilet. This is the daily reality for some bushfire survivors.

Two existing recovery agencies will fall under the umbrella of the new government body — the National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency (NDNQFRRA), and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency.

Control of the Bushfire Recovery Agency’s $2 billion fund will be handed to the new body.

The long-term recovery efforts in communities affected by recent floods across the east coast and cyclones in Western Australia will also become the responsibility of the NRRA.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology, nearly 82,000 gigalitres of water – approximately 160 times the amount of water in Sydney Harbour – fell on NSW in the space of a week during the March floods.

And then, in early April, the Australian Defence Force was sent to WA’s midwest region to help rebuild, after towns there bore the brunt of Tropical Cyclone Seroja.

NDNQFRRA coordinator-general Shane Stone, a former Northern Territory chief minister and Liberal Party president, will oversee the new agency.

Australian Climate Service to better collate data

The federal government will also announce the creation of an Australian Climate Service to better collate data to inform emergency management policy.

A key recommendation of the bushfire royal commission was to create a national data system where information on climate change could be easily shared amongst different jurisdictions.

Many argue the findings indicate Australia must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to zero, but in the report’s 80 recommendations, none are aimed at stopping global warming.


Extreme rain and flooding battered New South Wales earlier this year. Photo: Getty 

Its final report also acknowledged evidence that climate change will continue to increase the frequency and intensity of natural disasters across Australia.

In a statement, Environment Minister Sussan Ley said data from the Climate Service would be used in planning for power, water and telecommunications infrastructure, and housing in the future.

“We do face more extreme weather events due to changing climate and this is about being prepared, and being able to take steps to make our communities more resilient,” she said.

“The collaboration between the Bureau of Meteorology, the CSIRO, ABS and Geoscience Australia is critical to delivering rich insights drawn from an expanded range of data sources.”

An additional $4.5 million will go towards training people working in disaster recovery to help regional communities prepare for high-risk hazards.

Overall, the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements made 80 recommendations, about 55 of which involved the federal government in some capacity.

The government announced full support or in-principle support for most of those 55 recommendations, but ruled out establishing a sovereign aerial firefighter fleet.


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