Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements announced

The Federal Government has formally announced the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements following the recent bushfires, which will examine areas including the responsibilities and coordination between Australia’s three levels of government, and how they share resources.

The Inquiry’s terms of reference include land management, land-use planning, zoning and development approval including building standards, urban safety, public infrastructure and the incorporation of natural disaster considerations.

The terms of reference are to examine:

  1. the responsibilities of, and coordination between, the Commonwealth and State, Territory and local Governments relating to preparedness for, response to, resilience to, and recovery from, natural disasters, and what should be done to improve these arrangements, including with respect to resource sharing;

  2. Australia’s arrangements for improving resilience and adapting to changing climatic conditions, what actions should be taken to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters, and whether accountability for natural disaster risk management, preparedness, resilience and recovery should be enhanced, including through a nationally consistent accountability and reporting framework and national standards;

  3. whether changes are needed to Australia’s legal framework for the involvement of the Commonwealth in responding to national emergencies, including in relation to the following:

  4. thresholds for, and any obstacles to, State or Territory requests for Commonwealth assistance;

  5. whether the Commonwealth Government should have the power to declare a state of national emergency;

  6. how any such national declaration would interact with State and Territory emergency management frameworks;

  7. whether, in the circumstances of such a national declaration, the Commonwealth Government should have clearer authority to take action (including, but without limitation, through the deployment of the Australian Defence Force) in the national interest;

  8. any relevant matter reasonably incidental to a matter referred to in paragraphs (a) to (c).

  9. the findings and recommendations (including any assessment of the adequacy and extent of their implementation) of other reports and inquiries that you consider relevant, including any available State or Territory inquiries relating to the 2019-2020 bushfire season, to avoid duplication wherever possible;

  10. ways in which Australia could achieve greater national coordination and accountability — through common national standards, rule-making, reporting and data-sharing — with respect to key preparedness and resilience responsibilities, including for the following:

  11. land management, including hazard reduction measures;

  12. wildlife management and species conservation, including biodiversity, habitat protection and restoration;

  13. land-use planning, zoning and development approval (including building standards), urban safety, construction of public infrastructure, and the incorporation of natural disaster considerations;

  14. any ways in which the traditional land and fire management practices of Indigenous Australians could improve Australia’s resilience to natural disasters.

The three Commissioners, led by Air Chief Marshal Mark Binskin AC (Retd), will call for public submissions from March, and are expected to hold public hearings in a number of locations across the country.

The final report is due by August 31.

Further information about the Royal Commission is available here.

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