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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.