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Aussie governments urged to fork out billions of dollars over extreme weather

SYDNEY (XINHUA) – Australian homes, businesses and communities need billions of dollars more in government funding to cope with worsening extreme weather conditions, according to the nation’s insurance industry.

A report released yesterday by the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) said the federal government’s natural disaster funding should be doubled to AUD200 million (about USD143.8 million) per year and that the figure should be matched by the nation’s six state and two territory governments for the next five years.

“Insurers are at the frontline when it comes to climate change and extreme weather. That’s why as an industry we’re so focussed on improving community resilience,” said head of Sydney-based ICA, Andrew Hall. Hall said that investing now in stronger homes and community infrastructures would ultimately lead to estimated government and household savings of at least AUD19 billion (about USD13.7 billion) by 2050.

The Building a More Resilient Australia report outlined a range of measures to make vulnerable communities and homes better able to withstand the nation’s most common natural disasters of floods, cyclones and bushfires.

The ICA’s proposed programme includes improving the national flood early warning system, flood levees for regional towns, raising vital community service facilities above expected flood lines, cyclone-proofing more than 44,000 homes in northern Australia and creating a national coastal hazard information database.

The call for greater investment in making homes and communities more resilient to the impacts of extreme weather is one of 12 policy areas the ICA has identified as requiring reform, modernisation or investment.

The insurance body is also calling for a review of land use planning arrangements to ensure no more homes were built in areas with a high risk of extreme weather impacts, and for national building codes to be strengthened.

Additionally, the ICA believed states and territories must finally abolish duties, levies and taxes on insurance products, which increase the cost of premiums and discourage people from being fully insured.