By ROSS HENRY, QFF Project Manager- Natural Disaster
Natural disasters in Queensland are a way of life. Whether we are being inundated by a flood, battered by a tropical cyclone or parched by a drought; it is essential that we have the mechanisms in place to support and prepare our farmers and primary industries. Industry must work alongside government to ensure resilience in the face of adversity.
The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) have just completed its project looking in to natural disaster resilience planning in Queensland agriculture. This project, supported by the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, was a proactive project aimed at initiating the conversation around preparedness and resilience planning for natural disasters.
Resilience in agriculture put simply is the ability to recover and attain full business functionality after a natural disaster. Disaster Resilience is key to improve the preparedness of Queensland’s agricultural sector to manage the impacts of natural disasters – cyclone, flood, storm, drought and fire. The Queensland and Federal Governments have spent millions of dollars in recent years on the clean-up and recovery from natural disaster. By investing in industry resilience and preparedness, the costs associated with these inevitable events will be reduced and the effects on agriculture managed. It remains in the interests of individual industries, government and the community broadly to invest in these measures.
This project took an in depth look at the dairy and mango industry’s abilities to response to natural disasters. By measuring both industry’s understanding and comprehension of the impacts of natural disasters QFF were able to assess their preparedness and resilience planning for future events. Both showed strong governance around natural disasters, with appropriate communication in place throughout the industries. Both however demonstrated their limited financial capacity to implement the work that need to be done. Lack of financial backing to fully explore these resilience operations have been the main inhibitors to both dairy and the mango industry, particularly at an individual farmer level.
Another aspect of the pilot study concentrated on a specific geographical area Barker Barambah Creek catchment, in the North & South Burnett Regional Councils. In the Barker Barambah Creek area there was an absence of one dominant industry body which likely contributed to the lack of governance and strategic planning across this area. An area which is agriculturally diverse is very susceptible to freight logistics issues affecting their ability to move produce and feed through disasters periods. During disasters fast and effective responses to disruptions in essential services are a high priority. A key finding was that without proper communications during natural disasters the whole process can grind to a halt. Communication across departments, organisations and industry groups still have a long way to go, even with the improvements over the past few years. During natural disaster events even the smallest of breakdown in communications can escalate quickly if the processes are not 100%.
QFF’s findings from this project will be fed into the National Emergency Management Projects– Disaster Resilience Planning for Australian Agriculture and locally to the Industry Recovery Officers (IROs) project both managed by QFF. The finding will also be passed to the relevant government departments.
This recent QFF project was able to determine that while our industries bodies are working hard with farmers to deliver appropriate preparedness and resilience, there remains significant opportunities for government to improve. The report has highlighted particular funding shortfalls which now must be addressed by government. The ball is now in the government’s court to fulfill their commitment by ensuring our primary producers are provided with the support they need to become truly resilient and prepared for the wilds Queensland can through at them.