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Federal government creates new ‘recovery and resilience’ agency to manage natural disasters

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Communities hit by natural disasters will get support from a new national agency tasked with helping them rebuild and recover.

The National Recovery and Resilience Agency will receive $600 million in next week’s federal budget, after being flagged in the government’s response to the natural disaster royal commission.

The government will put $210 million towards a new Australian Climate Service that will bring together data from the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO, ABS and Geoscience Australia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the initiatives in Townsville, which has faced cyclones and flooding in recent years.

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Mr Morrison said the community understood natural disasters were part of the cycle which could impact their businesses, livelihoods and homes.

“It doesn’t make the loss any less, it doesn’t make the job any less difficult,” he told reporters on Wednesday.

“But these are things we need to plan more for and we need to have the supports there when those disasters come about.

“These disasters we are seeing happen more frequently, that’s why building our resilience is a key plank of our government’s response to climate change.”

Residents evacuating during the 2019 floods in Townsville.

AAP

The National Recovery and Resilience Agency will be led by former Northern Territory chief minister Shane Stone.

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He said more focus had historically been on the clean-up phase of a natural disaster.

“We’re really good at cleaning up, we’re not real good on the preparation,” Mr Stone said.

“So we’ve got to get better.”

The agency will fund projects such as bushfire and cyclone proofing houses, building levees and improving the resilience of telecommunications and essential supplies.

It will also manage the former National Drought and North Queensland Flood Response and Recovery Agency and the National Bushfire Recovery Agency, which includes a $2 billion fund.

Communities in NSW and Queensland hit by recent storms and floods and areas in Western Australia impacted by cyclones will benefit.

From July, the agency will incorporate the disaster risk reduction and recovery functions from the Department of Home Affairs, and its regional network will expand to include rural financial counsellors.

Environmental road map

Emergency Management Australia will get money to upgrade the national situation room to include a real time “common operating picture” for all natural disasters.

The Australian Climate Service will also begin from July.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said it would help Australia prepare and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

“It will help provide an environmental road map in our planning for infrastructure, housing and basic services like power, telecommunications, and water,” she said.

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Australia had a Climate Commission and a minister devoted to climate change under the previous Labor government. Both were abolished when Liberal Tony Abbott won power in 2013.

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