Improved natural disaster preparedness including proactive rural lands management, closer alignment with the Rural Fire Service’s (RFS) land clearing strategies in high bushfire risk areas, and ready-to-stand-up evacuation centre amenities will form a part of a Eurobodalla Labor for Council policy if it wins government in the 4 December elections.

Mayoral candidate David Grace said today the Eurobodalla Shire Council (ESC) acknowledgement the 2019-20 bushfires affected 80 per cent of the shire and damaged essential infrastructure, is a worrying sign of what lies ahead for the south coast with the growing impacts of unabated climate change.

“There is a serious need for ESC to actively seek state and federal funding, in comparison to what little is occurring presently, to ensure we’re prepared for the next hit,” Mr Grace said. “The need for urgent review of our planning documents to take into account climate change has never been more pressing.

“Labor wants to make a difference to ensure as much preparation possible before the next bushfires, floods or other natural disaster. We know in 2019-20 ratepayers were underwhelmed by some of the council’s evacuation centres which lacked signage;  public toilets which went unattended; a total lack of suitable sleeping space, kitchen facilities, or adequate back-up air-conditioning for the aged and unwell; and communities which lacked power when the grid went down.

Upgrading the wiring for back-up generators since then is not what we call being prepared; it’s piece meal and totally inadequate.

“We don’t even have a resilience plan to ensure Eurobodalla residents are better prepared for future disasters, especially to address the needs of the most vulnerable members of our community.

“Mayor Liz Innes’ Local Environment Plan has allowed large swathes of land clearing and questionable development in high bushfire risk areas, and she and her councillor mates ignored NSW agencies and the many community submissions to improve their and our readiness,” he said.

Eurobodalla Labor for Council is concerned for the community’s and volunteer firefighters’ safety if the shire is not proactively better managing its lands and forests, according to Rosedale resident and Labor councillor candidate Jack Egan.

“We know from the work of Dr Portia Odell, director of Cities Power Partnership that it is possible for local governments to steer their communities towards a transition to a zero emissions future,” Mr Egan said. “This reinforces our existing endorsement of  the citizen’s alliance  ZeroSE – A Beyond Zero Future for South East NSW which plans to help residents, businesses and farmers create local jobs while ensuring a healthy environment for the future.

“There is plenty of evidence-based research showing that the shire’s residents and businesses can transition to a low carbon economy to ensure Australia meets its emission target, which would deliver benefits for the climate in terms of  natural disaster severity, regularity and the impacts on us all.

“It has already been reported ESC has to budget for the replacement of 14 bridges lost in the 2019-2020 bushfires.

“Replacing timber with timber is an attractive aesthetic, but practically speaking it’s as vulnerable again when the next fire comes over the mountains. The bottom line is this all costs the ratepayers a lot of money.

“We need to do things differently and if we are elected on 4 December to steer the council in a new direction — to make a real difference for the residents’ benefit — we will set to work securing new revenue streams from NSW and federal agencies to contribute to our infrastructure costs,” he said.

Dr Odell recently told the media that spending public money on disaster preparation instead of on recovery was a better investment, yet 97 per cent of all Australian disaster funding comes after an event.

“If we want to avoid catastrophic impacts and create a prosperous future for local communities, all levels of government must ramp up their climate action,” Dr Odell told journalists.

Eurobodalla has not yet joined the Cities Power Partnership — which if it does by November 15 — would enable it to also benefit from the Cities Activity Database (CAD) pilot program.

“As your mayor, I will give these sorts of initiatives a high priority and will listen to the community’s views,” Mr Grace said. “A report on actions we might be able to take that similar cities and towns are taking and how effective they have been would be very useful for future preparedness planning.

“The local government level is a key part of Australia’s climate solution; we’re not simply passers-by or incapable of taking action ourselves.

“There are 150 councils around Australia covering 60 per cent of the population which are already part of the Cities Power Partnership.

“In Victoria, for example, many councils are supporting their communities to reduce their energy bills by installing solar via a program that makes solar installation easy for homeowners through the provision of a vetted solar installer and working closely with them through the installation process.

“Once installed with solar panels, those households are able to take a loan and pay off their solar system through their rates notice.

“Councils pay to deliver the program, but are able to recoup costs by receiving a commission from each solar installation,” he added. “These are not pie-in-the-sky aspirations; they’re practical, sensible and achievable in the next term of council.