Royal Commission findings support council calls for greater natural disaster resilience

Local Government NSW (LGNSW) has welcomed today’s findings of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disasters Arrangements, undertaken following the Black Summer bushfires that stretched many of the State’s councils to their limits.

LGNSW President Linda Scott said the Commission’s 80-plus recommendations aligned with the peak body’s submissions when it appeared before the Commission earlier this year.

“The Royal Commission found natural disaster is a growing risk due to changing global climate conditions, with disasters expected to become more complex, unpredictable and difficult to manage,” Cr Scott said.

“NSW’s Black Summer showed local councils are at the forefront of dealing with that risk.

“Councillors, Mayors and council staff were involved in every component of the disaster response from providing support and services to their communities to serving on the frontlines as volunteer fire fighters.”

“It’s great news that the Royal Commission has acknowledged the importance of a locally-led response, and the need for state governments to ensure councils have sufficient resources to effectively discharge the responsibilities devolved to them.”

Cr Scott said reducing the risk of natural disaster and building community resilience was a responsibility shared by all tiers of government.

“The Commission also supported our call for the better incorporation of ‘build back better’ principles into Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements, with streamlined application processes,” she said.

The Royal Commission also highlighted the reliance of local governments on the ability to access a ‘surge capacity’ during disasters and identified a pressing need for the State Government to review existing arrangements around the sharing of council resources.

“During the bushfires, LGNSW helped to establish the Local Government Bushfire Recovery Support Group (LGBRSG) which facilitated a matching service between councils offering support and councils requiring support,” Cr Scott said.

“It was an excellent example of generosity, coordination and collaboration among councils and NSW Government agencies in supporting recovery and rebuild.

“Recently the NSW Government re-established the group in preparation for the coming summer months.”

Other recommendations welcomed by LGNSW included the need for improvements to data sharing, mobile broadband capability, use and understanding of Australian Defence Force resources, community education and engagement, management of donated goods and increased investment in mental health support following natural disasters.

“Equally important is for local government to have a seat at the National Cabinet, in line with the Commission’s recommendation for a senior ministerial forum to make strategic decisions about national natural disaster arrangements,” Cr Scott said.

“In the interim, LGNSW will continue to work with the NSW and Federal governments to help ensure the safety and resilience of their communities,” she said.

A full list of LGNSW’s recommendations to the Royal Commission can be found here.

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