Four in five councils hit by disaster in three years

·2-min read
Darren England/AAP PHOTOS

Four out of five local councils have been impacted by natural disasters since 2019, as the growing frequency of wild weather mounts pressure on emergency responders.

Millions of Australians have been affected by floods and fires in recent years and the situation is only expected to get worse, with recovery funding anticipated to double in coming years.

Of Australia's 540 local government areas, about 80 per cent received some form of relief and recovery funding in the past three years, National Emergency Management Agency coordinator-general Brendan Moon told a Senate estimates hearing on Tuesday.

"Many have been activated multiple times and so we have this real issue about compounding, cascading effects of these particular disasters," he said.

"There is a lot of time being spent in terms of recovery and reconstruction which is reducing capacity to prepare for the next round of disasters."

Mr Moon said the agency was focused on better preparing communities in the long term, not only on immediate recovery responses.

But there are concerns global warming will make it harder for emergency responders to access crucial firefighting aircraft, as bushfires become more frequent around the world.

Joe Buffone, NEMA's deputy coordinator-general of emergency management and response, said southern and northern hemisphere fire seasons were increasingly overlapping, potentially leading to a reduction in availability of aircraft leased from northern hemisphere countries. 

"There's absolutely no doubt that there is an overlap there, and we're exploring what that means," he told the committee.

"At the moment the advice from the National Aerial Firefighting Centre is we will meet our aviation requirements for the upcoming fire season."

The national fleet comprises 151 firefighting aircraft, including one fully-funded air tanker.

In total, more than 500 aircraft are available for firefighting in Australia, including those owned and contracted by states and territories, according to the NAFC website.

An audit of the disaster recovery funding arrangement found the federal government made $3.1 billion in payments to state governments between June 2018 and June 2022.

It expects that figure to balloon to $6.4 billion between 2022/23 and 2025/26.