Plan­ning for disas­ter

Sunshine Coast Daily - - OUR SAY - Bill Hoff­man bill.hoff­man@sc­

IMAGES came from Hawaii of an en­tire sub­urb wiped out by an erup­tion of lava that should have been as pre­dictable as it was spec­tac­u­lar.

The sub­urb had, af­ter all, been built on ground the US Ge­o­log­i­cal So­ci­ety rated as at high risk of such an event. Home own­ers have been reach­ing for their in­sur­ance poli­cies which, for many, will pro­vide lit­tle so­lace. Mean­while in Queens­land, the State Govern­ment has been tout­ing what it de­scribed as a na­tion­wide first for disas­ter re­cov­ery and re­silience. It’s got a plan of noble in­tent but bug­ger-all sub­stance called “De­liv­er­ing the Queens­land Strat­egy for Disas­ter Re­silience” which shouldn’t make you feel im­me­di­ately safer in your beds. It comes af­ter the govern­ment an­nounced its $38 mil­lion Disas­ter Re­silience Fund to strengthen “the state’s re­silience to fu­ture disasters”. State Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Cameron Dick, in the process, has de­clared “Re­silient Queens­land will see ev­ery re­gion across our state with an in­di­vid­u­ally-tai­lored re­gional re­silience plan by 2022”.

I raise it be­cause re­silience in the face of disas­ter was also the sub­ject of the LNP’s New­man govern­ment, specif­i­cally in re­sponse to flood­ing.

Its so­lu­tion was to make Lo­cal Govern­ment Min­is­ter of the time, David Crisa­fulli, the min­is­ter for com­mu­nity re­cov­ery and re­silience.

My ques­tions about stiff­en­ing re­stric­tions to flood plain devel­op­ment and shift­ing vul­ner­a­ble com­mu­ni­ties to higher ground didn’t sit well with him for what­ever rea­son and he there­after re­fused to re­spond to any ques­tions I put. Beaten in his home town of Townsville in 2015, David in 2017 shifted his par­lia­men­tary ca­reer south to the Gold Coast seat of Broad­wa­ter, whose name sug­gests at least a hint of vul­ner­a­bil­ity. As Sunshine Coast Coun­cil flood ex­perts once told me, if your sub­urb or town has ‘wa­ter’ in its name you have a clue, so good luck to him there. Queens­land’s re­silience plan pre­sented re­cently by the state’s Re­con­struc­tion Au­thor­ity, to Flood­plain Man­age­ment Aus­tralia’s na­tional con­fer­ence, came af­ter the 2017-18 disas­ter sea­son – yes there is one – caused $370 mil­lion in dam­age to pub­lic in­fras­truc­ture alone.

As well as be­ing the Sunshine State, Queens­land is also Aus­tralia’s most disas­ter-im­pacted state and one that reg­u­larly re­lies on the Com­mon­wealth cof­fers to cover the cost of cy­clones and floods.

The plan, Min­is­ter Dick says, is “the state’s whole-of-govern­ment re­sponse to disas­ter re­silience”.

“It will see bet­ter co­or­di­na­tion of govern­ment pol­icy, in­for­ma­tion man­age­ment, project de­liv­ery and stake­holder col­lab­o­ra­tion through tan­gi­ble projects that de­liver out­comes.”

But when it came to tak­ing a much closer look at plan­ning ap­provals in low-ly­ing coastal com­mu­ni­ties, I re­ceived from his me­dia team the vague re­sponse that “Build­ing a more disas­ter re­silient state is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of ev­ery­one – state and lo­cal gov­ern­ments, the busi­ness sec­tor and our com­mu­ni­ties”.

In re­la­tion to state in­ter­est checks on plan­ning amend­ments that sought devel­op­ment of his­tor­i­cally flood­prone land or land vul­ner­a­ble to storm surge and sea level rise, the Min­is­ter’s min­ders as­sured the govern­ment would be very tough in pro­tect­ing peo­ple and prop­erty.

Then, in what may be news to Sunshine Coast coun­cil­lors busy with a suc­ces­sion of plan­ning amend­ments to meet State Govern­ment pop­u­la­tion growth projects, Mr Dick’s spokesman said they were “re­spon­si­ble for ad­min­is­ter­ing their lo­cal plan­ning schemes”.

“The State Govern­ment’s State Plan­ning Pol­icy re­quires that a lo­cal govern­ment must ap­pro­pri­ately in­te­grate the state’s poli­cies for nat­u­ral haz­ards, in­clud­ing flood­ing, land­slide, bush­fire, coastal ero­sion and storm tide in­un­da­tion in the lo­cal govern­ment’s scheme,” he said.

That’s some­thing coun­cil­lors may choose to re­mem­ber when as­sess­ing devel­op­ment ap­pli­ca­tions to come, the path for which they have demon­stra­bly laid the ground­work.

Mean­while the Palaszczuk govern­ment pushes on with its cli­mate change bat­tle, mak­ing a $5.6 mil­lion state bud­get com­mit­ment from En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Leeanne Enoch to help “the tran­si­tion to a low car­bon, clean growth econ­omy”.

Hun­dreds of mil­lions more are com­mit­ted to other so­lu­tions to ad­dress en­vi­ron­men­tal dam­age caused by past in­dif­fer­ence.

Which was all well and good un­til Nat­u­ral Re­sources, Mines and En­ergy Min­is­ter Dr An­thony Lyn­ham started tout­ing the state’s boom in ex­plo­ration ex­pen­di­ture to $266.6 mil­lion.

Coal ex­plo­ration spend­ing ap­par­ently is up 21 per cent and while the state also seeks to boost hy­dro­gen so­lu­tions, pe­tro­leum ex­plo­ration ex­pen­di­ture has risen 40 per cent to $175 mil­lion and “we con­tinue to be the des­ti­na­tion of choice for pe­tro­leum ex­plo­ration in Aus­tralia”.

But don’t let the con­tra­dic­tion worry you too much. Re­mem­ber, we have a plan.

* This is a best of Bill Hoff­man, who is cur­rently on leave

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