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Bushfires inquiry turns focus to local governments

The royal commission into natural disaster arrangements is turning its focus to the role of local governments, with insurer submissions highlighting land use planning issues that have increased risks.

Hearings this week will include an examination of actions to prepare, respond to and recover from natural disasters and co-ordination arrangements at local and regional levels.

The inquiry was triggered by last summer’s devastating bushfire season, but its remit was widened to look at natural disasters more generally.

A submission from RACQ calling for improved land use planning has highlighted the inundation in February last year of Townsville’s Idalia area, which was developed on a flood plain.

“Given the high risk in this area, mitigation measures and building standards both at the private and public level may still be insufficient to make insurance affordable and/or practical thereby causing the end user (residents) to bear the losses of each disaster event,” it says.

“RACQ notes that the beneficiaries of such development (developers, builders, council) are often not the ones who face the significant financial and emotional costs of such natural disaster events.”

IAG and Suncorp submissions have also called for improved land use planning, building codes and higher levels of mitigation spending across government levels.

Suncorp says a practical measure could include requiring new developments to have floor heights which are at least above the 1-in-100-year flood level.

“While planning decisions ultimately rest with local and state governments, insurers must appropriately price the risk faced by communities,” it says.