Australian communities benefit from natural hazards research

Posted July 02, 2020

SGS Economics and Planning Australian bush fire

Research into the response, recovery and mitigation of natural hazards greatly benefits Australian communities.

The 2019/20 summer bushfires felt more intense and threatening than ever — but natural hazards are not new to Australia. In recent years, large parts of Australia have been experiencing ongoing droughts, bushfires, damaging hailstorms, and floods with devastating economic and societal consequences.

The recent SGS Economics and Planning study into the value delivered by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC (CRC) shows that Australian communities greatly benefit from the CRC’s eight years of research into the response, recovery and mitigation of natural hazards, said SGS Principal & Partner Ellen Witte.

SGS Economics and Planning Ellen Witte round image

Our study found that the CRC brings a range of benefits to the community at large, as an independent institution, a contributor to the local and international research community, and as a provider of knowledge that has saved lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in natural disaster damage. End users indicate that the CRC is in some cases their unique source of information, and they would not be able to access that knowledge if the CRC was not there.

— SGS Principal & Partner Ellen Witte

The report The Value of the Bushfire and Natural Hazard CRC reveals that for every dollar invested in the CRC, six dollars of benefit is received by end-user partners – reducing the loss of life and injury, reducing government costs, and reducing insurable losses. This 6:1 economic return of six dollars is expected to deliver a total benefit of $513 million over the 15 years between 2013/14 to 2027/28.

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When assessing the benefits of the CRC, SGS undertook stakeholder surveying, document reviews, executive interviews, case study research and economic modelling within discrete project phases. The research identified several areas of focus to further benefit Australian communities said SGS Associate & Partner Marcia Keegan.

SGS Economics and Planning Marcia Keegan round image

Going forward, there is a real need for the CRC to help Australian communities identify possible future scenarios and conditions and plan for ‘unprecedented’ events. It is important to mitigate impacts – including considering climate change impacts in plans and designing and constructing disaster-resistant infrastructure. The need for real-time data during disasters and more detailed studies of the factors affecting bushfire spread was also identified in the research.

— SGS Associate & Partner Marcia Keegan

Understanding human behaviour in response to a natural disaster was identified as an important area for future research. In the Black Saturday fires in 2009, human behaviour was seen to be more critical than the fire itself. Research into the psychological distress taking a toll on volunteers wellbeing as they work for weeks on end was also identified.

Download the report

The CRC successfully brings researchers and end-users together, creating a unique environment to deliver proven and readily applicable knowledge, tools and insights. Quantifying the impact of the CRC’s research and other activities shows the national investment in the CRC’s research agenda is a small investment compared to the value of they deliver to emergency management organisations, research institutes and communities throughout Australia.

SGS Economics and Planning CRC report cover page