The 2011 Toowoomba floods.

The final report of the Productivity Commission’s inquiry into Natural Disaster Funding Arrangements has highlighted the need for changes to land use planning and urban design to improve resilience and manage the risks of climate change.

The commission also states that current government funding arrangements for natural disaster funding are “inefficient, inequitable and unsustainable”.

“They are prone to cost shifting, ad hoc responses and short-term political opportunism.”

One of the key findings was that natural hazard information was not comprehensive or publicly available for all local government areas, and that this has made it difficult for property owners or potential property owners to adequately asses risk and take actions to ensure resilience.

In its submission to the inquiry in 2014, Dungog Shire Council stated that flood mapping was not available for the shire even though damaging flood events were a frequent occurrence, and that the council had been unable to afford to have the mapping undertaken.

“…one of Councils underlying issues is adequate recording and monitoring of flood levels Councils ability to fund flood management strategies is severely hampered by our lack of financial resources (rates base $5 million), work on studies within our Shire has been piece-meal over a number of years,” Craig Deasey, general manager of Dungog Shire Council wrote.

“There is this constant issue as regards funding the studies, Council needs the studies undertaken to assist with improved land use planning in the development of Councils Local Environmental Plan (LEP) yet Council cannot afford to fund the magnitude of flood studies still required within our LGA.”

The Commission has recommended several ways in which the availability of natural hazards data could be improved, including governments at all levels sharing natural hazard data that is already held, and potentially partnering with private sector providers to collect data where gaps exist.

The Commission also recommended that insurers share expertise and information such as claims data to inform land use planning decisions, and that governments undertake land use planning and mitigation to reduce risk exposure and vulnerability.

“State and territory governments should prioritise and accelerate implementation of the Enhancing Disaster Resilience in the Built Environment Roadmap, including reviewing the regulatory components of vendor disclosure statements. The Land Use Planning and Building Codes Taskforce should be tasked to identify and consider options for regular, low-cost dissemination of hazard information to households by governments and insurers,” the Commission stated.

It also recommended that state and territory governments:

  • Clearly articulate the statewide natural hazard risk appetite in land use planning policy frameworks by identifying the risks posed by natural hazards and specifying appropriate planning controls for each given level of risk
  • Provide local governments with guidance on how to prioritise competing objectives within land use planning
  • Provide local governments with guidance on how to integrate land use planning and building standards. The Commission said consideration should be given to Victoria’s Integrated Planning and Building Framework for Bushfire
  • Regularly review their published risk appetite and guidance documentation to ensure it is up-to-date, accessible and incorporates relevant hazard information

The Commission also said local governments should record the reasoning behind development assessment decisions, where they do not do so already, and at a minimum provide this information to the public upon request.

One reply on “Productivity Commission: land use planning changes can mitigate disaster risk”

  1. In a changing climate, mapping floodplain geomorphology is a more reliable way of mapping risk than numerical flood modelling. Although it wouldn’t be as elaborate or as expensive and most people would be able to understand it.

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