As farmers are all too aware, Queensland is the most disaster impacted state in Australia. It is therefore unsurprising that we have a comprehensive and tested disaster management framework. We are the only state with a permanent disaster recovery organisation – the Queensland Reconstruction Authority – which manages and coordinates the Queensland Government’s program of infrastructure renewal and recovery within disaster‐affected communities, and leads disaster recovery, resilience and mitigation policy.
At the national level, Emergency Management Australia (EMA) delivers programs, policies and services that strengthen Australia’s national security and emergency management capability. While states are responsible for managing emergency responses in their jurisdictions, EMA coordinates the Australian Government’s physical and financial support for disasters. Recently, there has been some concerns raised about a new layer of bureaucracy thrown into the mix following the establishment of the North Queensland Livestock Industry Recovery Agency (NQLIRA).
On face value, the money currently covering NQLIRA salaries may have been better used to employ long-term recovery and resilience experts that could deliver technical advice to farmers through established and effective industry channels to start building greater resilience across the sector. However, NQLIRA is now in place and there is little to be gained by picking it apart, but much to be gained if we can help lead it to the right recovery, reconstruction and resilience conclusions for Queensland.
While NQLIRA appears to be still finding its feet and going over old ground now, the real measure will be whether it can understand the long-term stressors on our sector and put an effective plan in place to address them. Principally, and consistent with necessary changes to drought policy, this will require a shift from the reactive way governments currently deal with extreme weather events. Encouragingly, the federal government appears realise a more proactive response is needed, as demonstrated with the establishment of the Future Drought Fund. With the Prime Minister’s eye on NQLIRA, approval for a new approach to natural disasters should be possible. The right programs, settings and resourcing for disasters and droughts will give farm businesses a genuine chance of becoming better prepared and more resilient.