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Tuesday, 24 November 2015

National Strategy for Disaster Resilience- Australia

Jim Abraham (Halifax, NS)

I just spent a three-week vacation in Australia and New Zealand.  Much of that time was visiting friends and colleagues from the Bureau of Meteorology and the New Zealand MetService, discussing the challenges and opportunities of ensuring the work that we do is relevant to the needs of society.

Extreme weather events are quite frequent in Australia; a topic frequented by my weather colleagues down there. During our visit, there were several severe weather outbreaks, accompanied by tornadoes and flash floods.  An anomalously warm spell in early October had resulted in earlier than normal moisture deficits, and the bushfire season was already underway. 

No surprise, that Australia to be extremely vulnerable to climate change and associated extreme weather events.  For example:
  •          A substantial proportion of the population resides in relatively few urban areas.  Cities like Melbourne and Sydney continue to grow rapidly
  •          Much of this same urban population is located relatively near the coast
  •          A substantial amount of their water resources and associated agricultural lands are within one large river basin (Murray-Darling)
During my conversations, I was particularly interested in any national coordination initiatives underway to help reduce these vulnerabilities.  Certainly the Bureau of Meteorology is examining a strategy that will allow it to address these challenges in a cost-effective way.  However, I was very interested in the fact that the Australian and New Zealand governments are cooperating on a National Strategy for Disaster Resilience

I was particularly pleased that this recognizes that all sectors of society need to work together, including business, all levels of government, NGO’s, academia and individuals.  The identified priority areas of action are areas that I feel are essential for us in Canada, especially establishment of partnerships and community engagement.  Furthermore, in Australia-New Zealand, there is a recognition that the importance of infrastructure investments.  Certainly, given our recently elected government’s priority on infrastructure, it would be nice to see appropriate investment that contributes to sustainability and resilience.  A recent report on the progress in implementing the strategy includes a number of case studies:  http://www.ag.gov.au/EmergencyManagement/About-us-emergency-management/Documents/NSDR-Progress-to-date.PDF 

I’ll be keeping in touch with folks to benefit from their learning and progress. I would like to see Canada take advantage of the efforts undertaken by our colleagues “Down-Under”, and develop our own Canadian National Disaster Resiliency Strategy.

This blog post has been written by Jim Abraham, Director, Canadian Climate Forum & former Director General of Weather Environmental Monitoring, Meteorological Service of Canada, Environment Canada. Jim is on CatIQ's Canadian Catastrophe Conference's 2016 Advisory Committee and will be speaking at two sessions during the conference.

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