Climate Change Risk Practice
In September 2020 we reported on the NSW Bushfire Inquiry and its calls for greater operational capacity and planning to prevent and respond to bushfire risks. Since that time, the final report of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements was tabled in Parliament on 30 October 2020, setting out 80 recommendations to improve Australia's national natural disaster arrangement. There have since been early signs that many of the recommendations will be implemented over the course of the next 12 months on a Commonwealth, State and Territory level.
The Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements, also known as the Bushfires Royal Commission, was established on 20 February 2020 in response to the highly publicised extreme bushfire season of 2019-2020 which resulted in devastating loss of life, property and wildlife, and environmental destruction across Australia.
On 13 November 2020, The Australian Federal Government announced its support, or support in principle, for most of the Report's 55 recommendations directed at the Government, including
The Federal Government also announced a number of measures it will be implementing including
The NSW Government has announced it will work closely with the Australian Government to respond to the Royal Commission’s recommendations, in a way that complements the work already underway following the NSW Government’s Bushfire Inquiry.
The Bushfires Royal Commission report confirmed that the primary responsibility for disaster response lies with the State and Territory Governments, it is therefore expected that similarly to the Commonwealth response and measures outlined above, that all State and Territory Governments will provide formal responses to the recommendations of to the Royal Commission Report in the near future.
The Royal Commission report noted that it expects natural disasters to become more complex, more unpredictable and more difficult to manage. The Royal Commission has identified a number of Government measures that will be necessary across land-use planning, infrastructure, emergency management, social policy, agriculture, education, health, community development, energy and the environment.
We can expect that building regulations and planning laws will be one of the main focuses of legislative review and reform on a Federal, State and Local government level. One of the findings of the report was that 90% of buildings in bushfire prone areas have not been built to bushfire planning and construction regulations.
Similarly to findings from the NSW Bushfire Inquiry, the Royal Commission Report supports further review into legislation and processes relating to bushfire mitigation, hazard reduction and vegetation management.
The Royal Commission recommended that the insurance industry should produce clear guidance for consumers about what they can do to mitigate the risk of natural hazards to their homes, which could then be reflected in reduced insurance premiums. The Federal Government endorsed this recommendation and it will therefore be interesting to note the response of the insurance industry, both in Australia and globally.
Should you require any further advice on the existing and potential legal risks and liability arising from the issues identified in the inquiries and measures that can be taken to address these risks, please contact Jacinta Studdert. Insurers interested to discuss these changes should likewise please contact Dean Carrigan.