The main core weakness in Australia’s flood risk management (FRM) is that much of the flood risk assessment, mapping and implementation of FRM options are largely dependent on funding availability from the Australian, state and territory governments and the ability of local government to provide contributions, according to a report by The Geneva Association.
The report, entitled “Flood Risk Management in Australia Building flood resilience in a changing climate”, says that the limited availability of funding has led to a patchy approach to assessment and understanding of flood risk across Australia. While many jurisdictions have a strong understanding of local flood risk and a prioritised plan for flood risk reduction, the patchwork of information at a national and state level can lead to overall funding distribution not necessarily aligning to the overall highest priority flood risk areas nationally.
Furthermore, FRM funding that is made available is grossly disproportionate to the funding provided for flood recovery and reconstruction and for disaster management related to bushfire and structural fire hazards.
The report says that one challenge is involving at-risk communities in FRM. Although there have been attempts to do this by local councils and emergency agencies, there is far more work required to engage communities meaningfully in FRM and lift flood preparedness levels. Also, the funding and support for community flood education and engagement in emergency service budgets is very low compared to that for response and recovery activities.
Flood insurance is now readily available to residents and businesses throughout Australia, though insurance affordability remains a concern in high-risk flood regions, as pricing reflects the high underlying risk. Improvements in land-use planning and risk-reduction programmes to address the affordability challenge would help reduce the high cost of flood insurance in many parts of Australia.
There are few monitoring and review processes in place for assessing/measuring the impact of risk communication, risk reduction, risk prevention, risk financing and risk-transfer decisions and for providing feedback to improve the different components of FRM in the country. Holistic FRM evaluation is generally limited to grant-funded projects, although some organisations such as Catchment Management Authorities in Victoria have monitoring and evaluation frameworks for their FRM strategies.
Areas for improvement
The report says that opportunities for improvement to FRM in Australia may include:
• Further collaborative efforts (flood risk managers, emergency managers and land-use planning) to minimise the growth of flood risk in the future development of floodplains, particularly those at high risk.
• Increases in FRM funding in Australia, with a rebalancing from response and recovery to mitigation, and an improved share of overall hazard related funds to flood.
• Proactive strategies and resourcing to improve FRM and flood resilience in the highest priority flood risk areas of Australia.
• Increased resourcing and effort to improve community participation in FRM and raise community flood preparedness levels across Australia.
• Broader consideration of the full spectrum of possible flood events (rather than a single design flood event) in FRM, emergency management and land-use planning.