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Budget to allocate $600 million for mitigation program

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The Federal Budget will tomorrow include a $600 million mitigation program, overseen by a new National Recovery and Resilience Agency, that will support community and household resilience projects.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the Preparing Australia Program will both provide assistance for locally identified and led risk reduction measures and help address risks outside communities’ control.

“The new program will enable the Commonwealth to directly fund projects that mitigate or reduce risk, that minimise the impact of large-scale natural disasters like floods, bushfires and cyclones,” Mr Morrison told the Townsville Chamber of Commerce last week.

The program will comprise two parts, Preparing Australian Communities and Preparing Australian Homes.

“In the home program we will work with the insurance sector to identify priority activities and projects that will support beneficial reductions in insurance premiums,” Mr Morrison said.

The Government will also establish an Australian Climate Service to bring together information from bodies including the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, Geoscience and the Bureau of Statistics.

The National Recovery and Resilience Agency, to be led by Coordinator-General Shane Stone, will work with Emergency Management Australia and the climate service to support decision making in a crisis and afterwards, and will help target spending under the Preparing Australia Program, Mr Morrison says.

The program builds on the five-year $130 million Disaster Risk Reduction Funding Package and the $50 million a year available from the Emergency Response Fund for risk reduction, preparedness and resilience.

The new agency, which brings together the former National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, will also take responsibility for supporting communities hit by recent storms and floods in NSW and Queensland and cyclones in WA.

Insurance Council of Australia CEO Andrew Hall says the industry has been calling for some time for this scale of investment.

“It’s pleasing to see the Morrison Government has heard these calls with this action,” Mr Hall said. “We look forward to seeing the details of these projects in the Federal Budget next week.”

The Government also announced $4.5 million to support disaster recovery scenario training to help regional communities prepare for high-risk hazards.

IAG says the announcements are a positive step in ensuring a national co-ordinated approach to disaster management and targeted investment in mitigation projects for vulnerable communities.

“This will help create safer communities and reduce the financial and social impact of future natural disasters, which we know will be more severe and frequent in a changing climate,” CEO Nick Hawkins said.

Suncorp CEO Steve Johnston said the new agency would be an important part of delivering reforms recommended in last year’s Natural Disaster Royal Commission.

“We welcome a national approach so Australia is better prepared, better equipped and better resourced to tackle growing disaster risk,” he said.

“More funding for natural disaster mitigation projects is vital and must focus on areas where there is high risk of extreme weather and low levels of financial and physical resilience.”