ALP federal deputy leader Tanya Plibersek is in the Northern Rivers this week, pressing the flesh and making promises ahead of the upcoming federal election.
While we here suffer through the driest start to the year on record, the timing of her announcement to build a centre of excellence around flood resilience at Southern Cross University (SCU) may seem somewhat ironic.
But we don’t have to look far north to see what the unravelling climate emergency can unleash, with Townsville having copped almost two metres of rain in the past week.
Quite how any community can deal with that is beyond imagining.
In fact, nearly 80 per cent of all natural disasters in the world since 1970 have been flood-related.
According to Ms Plibersek the new National Institute for Flood Resilience, ‘will include a new network of smart sensors in the local area to more accurately predict floods’.
‘There will also be improved flood safe education in schools.
‘The Northern Rivers is one of the most active flood plains in Australia, so locals know first-hand the devastating impact these natural disasters can have.
‘Floods can cost lives, and ruin homes and businesses.
‘Over the last ten years, every state in the country has experienced major floods.
‘It’s estimated those floods have cost the Australian economy $18.2 billion per year.’
Close by her side, Labor candidate for Page, Patrick Deegan, said the National Institute will include the creation of a ‘flagship emergency Flood Response Centre for the Northern Rivers’.
‘The Flood Response Centre will ensure the best possible co-ordination of the State Emergency Service and allied emergency and incident response in the Northern Rivers region.’
And it will ‘deliver improved communication between vulnerable communities and first responders during a flood’.
‘The Flood Response Centre will work closely with the State Emergency Services, St John’s Ambulance, the Roads and Maritime Service, the NSW Business Chamber, and the Northern Rivers Joint Organisation of Councils,’ Mr Deegan said.
SCU Vice Chancellor Professor Adam Shoemaker said the new Flood Resilience Institute would ‘build on the existing investment and work undertaken over recent years by Southern Cross University’.
‘Specifically, this strengthens dramatically the establishment in 2017 of the Southern Cross Centre for Flood Research; and the two decade-long operation here on campus of the emergency evacuation centre for households and businesses in the Lismore region.’
‘This region is a living laboratory for flood research and flood preparedness. This new Institute will undertake work of national and international significance, drawing on a diverse range of fields from environmental science, business, law, engineering, coastal waters, education and health,’ Professor Shoemaker said.
Funding for the National Institute for Flood Resilience is part of Labor’s $300 million University Future Fund.
Among other promises Ms Plibersek has made while in the region is a more modest $80,000 for a new portable stage at Kadina High School for music, dance, and drama productions.
She will also attend the launch of Janelle Saffin’s pitch for the state seat of Lismore on behalf of the ALP at the upcoming state election.