Disaster mitigation and recovery funds 'unbalanced'

A DRAFT recommendation for the Federal Government to put aside $200 million for natural disaster mitigation funding, and plans to hand it out to states on a per capita basis, was labelled "nonsense" by an expert in the field.

Griffith University adjunct professor and former Queensland Director-General of Community Service Jim McGowan said the current balance between funding for recovery and mitigation was the reverse of what it should be.

He said any funding should be directed to the "front-end", or mitigation and prevention works, rather than the current arrangement that simply paid for re-building infrastructure.

"The cost to the economy of the 2010-11 floods was in excess of $15 billion, but the allocation for mitigation works was about $10 million - that's the sort of imbalance we're talking about," Mr McGowan said.

The commission last month released its draft report on disaster funding, urging the government to cut its share of recovery funds to a 50/50 share with state governments, down from the current 75/25 funding arrangement.

The changes could save the Abbott government up to $600 million each year, and should make way for $200 million to be spent on mitigation works to protect against floods, cyclones and bushfire.

But Mr McGowan said it seemed the commission had "come at the issue trying to mitigate the costs to the Commonwealth Government", and if the Commonwealth was going to save $600 million from cutting its share of recovery funds, the total should be invested in mitigation works.

"It's not more money we're arguing for, but if you invest up front in mitigation works, there's only a small amount to pay in recovery," he said.

"But if you don't, then you get to a natural disaster and almost no money is invested in preventing damage, and then you're picking up a much bigger bill - it's nonsense."

Mr McGowan said it was fair for states and federal governments to share half of the cost of recovery, to make both levels of government change to investing more in mitigation works.

But Local Government Minister David Crisafulli echoed sentiments from all levels of government and said the state was "already shouldering its fair share".

He said the state did not have the capacity to pay more for recovery works and had already put $80 million towards rebuilding damaged infrastructure better to be more resilient to disasters.

The commission also recommended handing out mitigation funding on a "per capita" basis, despite Queensland being one of the most disaster-prone states in the nation.

Mr Crisafulli said even if the state invested more in mitigation, it could not reduce the exposure of Queensland to natural disasters compared with other states.

But Mr McGowan said a per capita basis did not make any sense, and that if the Commonwealth expected states to allocate funds on a "risk-exposure basis", they should extend the same standard to their own funding arrangements.

The commission is expected to report its final recommendations to the Federal Government next month.


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