The 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in the state of Victoria that broke out on February 7 that year rank among Australia’s worst natural disasters. Some 173 people were killed when 400 fires — fuelled by strong winds and an exceptional heatwave — spread rapidly across large swaths of the state.
Seven years on, many communities are still struggling to recover from the disaster, which burnt about 450,000 hectares of land, destroyed 2,000 homes and shut dozens of businesses. Black Saturday is one of several natural disasters in recent years, which have prompted Australian authorities, businesses and communities to study the costs of such events and how better to prepare for them.
In 2010 a government inquiry estimated the economic cost of Black Saturday at A$4.4bn ($3.3bn) with insurance claims of A$1.2bn. New research published by the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience & Safer Communities, which reviewed the economic and social costs of Black Saturday and other national disasters, found that the true costs of disasters are at least 50 per cent higher than estimated.
“This is a conservative number,” says Peter Harmer, chief executive of Insurance Australia Group (IAG) and a member of the Roundtable. “If you include the increase in domestic violence, the increase in alcohol and substance abuse, the increase in school truancy etc — and the long-term impact on societies which are rent asunder by disasters — it would probably be larger.”
The Australian Business Roundtable estimates natural disasters caused A$9bn of damage in 2015 — about 0.6 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product — and this annual figure is expected to double by 2030, according to financial modelling conducted by Deloitte Access Economics.
The increasing threat posed by weather-related disasters linked to climate change is one of the reasons for the creation of the Australian Business Roundtable, which comprises the chief executives of some of the country’s biggest companies and the Australian Red Cross. It lobbies the government, businesses and others to take a more co-ordinated national approach to make communities more resilient, keep people safe and reduce the costs of natural disasters.
One of the main findings of its work is that spending more on pre-disaster mitigation and critical infrastructure that builds community resilience — such as electricity networks, weirs and bridges — could vastly reduce the economic costs of disasters. To read more click here.
The 5th Australian and New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference will be held at Jupiters Gold Coast, QLD on the 30-31 May 2016. The Conference theme ‘EARTH, FIRE and RAIN’ will continue to examine issues that impact preparedness, resilience, response and capability.
There is still time to register for the conference CLICK HERE to register your attendance.
Delegates may also wish to attend the 2016 Australian and New Zealand Search and Rescue Conference (ANZSAR); Land, Sea & Air which will follow the Disaster and Emergency Management Conference on 1st June discussing the issues and challenges in Search and Rescue and continue the support of professional development in new training, techniques and requirements.
Special discount rates are being offered to those that wish to attend both Conferences.