President’s column – 7 May 2021

In response to sustained local government advocacy, I’m so pleased to welcome the Federal Government’s announcement this week of a properly funded National Recovery and Resilience Agency by July, with former NT Chief Minister Shane Stone as its coordinator-General.

Disaster funding must go beyond recovery and reconstruction to embrace mitigation and resilience measures and, this week, for the first time, the Federal Government has listened to local government advocacy and has agreed to our calls for change.

This is very welcome news for local governments, particularly for those in areas prone to natural disasters (including flooding) that are wanting to develop their resilience and emergency management capability.

The establishment of this agency was a key recommendation of last year’s bushfire royal commission that local governments had advocated for, and we welcome that the Morrison Government has listened to and addressed our concerns.

On behalf of all local governments, I welcome this week’s announcement that the National Recovery and Resilience Agency will have $600 million to invest in a new program of disaster preparation and mitigation – in line with our long-standing advocacy to see increased Federal funding for councils to develop community resilience and emergency management strategies

The Prime Minister clarified this investment further on Wednesday, saying the funding “will support resilience projects across the community and for individuals’ homes, such as bushfire and cyclone-proofing houses, building levees, and improving the resilience of telecommunications and essential supplies”.

One dollar spent on mitigation can save at least $2 in recovery costs, and ALGA will continue advocating for the creation of a disaster mitigation fund of $200 million a year over four years.

Had dedicated disaster mitigation funding been available before now it’s just possible there would have been less of a need for a Commonwealth-backed $10 billion reinsurance pool to put downward pressure on what are very high home and business insurance costs in disaster-prone areas of northern Australia.

The NRRA news was one of two pre-Budget announcements this week that were relevant to local government – the other being a new $250 million round of the Building Better Regions Fund.

The extra money will be a “shot of confidence in the arm of regional Australia” as Deputy Prime Minister put it.

In a speech to the Regional Australia Institute, Mr McCormack referenced the federal government’s close work with councils to ensure local projects “are underway and supporting jobs and businesses”.

Local government is grateful for tied and untied funding being provided to allow us to attend to the needs of communities impacted by the pandemic, including essential job creation.

However, more is need, both to keep the recovery going and to make vulnerable rural and remote councils more financially sustainable.

Linda Scott,
ALGA President