Assistance to accelerate Bushfire recovery efforts

One hundred days from the release of the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements’ final report, the Australian Institute of Architects is renewing its call for urgent implementation of its recommendations.

CEO Julia Cambage restated the Institute’s offer to work constructively with all levels of government to accelerate the recovery efforts and enable communities to build back better.

“The bushfires currently ravaging Perth are a further stark reminder of the urgency with which Australia needs to undertake widespread reform to increase our resilience in the face of a rapidly changing climate,” Ms Cambage said.

“Following the Black Summer bushfires, Institute members pledged their support to communities and governments through Architects Assist to support the mammoth task of rebuilding.

“We have continued our advocacy for reforms that will build a safer and more resilient future for our nation.

“The human and economic cost of inaction is far too high.

“Estimates from the Insurance Council of Australia put the cost of rebuilding communities following natural disasters, between November 2019 and April 2020, at more than $4.6 billion.

“The Royal Commission’s report foreshadowed natural disasters becoming ‘more frequent and more severe’ and that is exactly what we see transpiring.

“The Royal Commission noted key evidence, including from the Institute, that would save lives and deliver a more resilient built environment that is better equipped to face future challenges including the need to evaluate the National Construction Code and revisit the effectiveness of the relevant Australian Standards.

“Concerningly, despite the Council of Australian Government tasking the Building Ministers Forum (BMF) with considering ‘how to adapt the built environment to future climate and hazard conditions’ in March 2020, there has as yet been no response from the BMF on this activity.

“The current regulatory system lacks a strong base of relevant data, a capacity to be agile and follows an outdated approach of implementing extremely slow moving reforms only after a disaster has taken place.

“With oversight from the BMF, the Australian Building Codes Board and Standards Australia must be adequately resourced to implement the recommendations from the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements as a highest priority.

“Great design is a critical first step in ‘building back better’ after natural disaster but this must be paired with high-quality construction informed by evidence-based data.

“We need to holistically and urgently re-examine where and how we build, and how our regulatory environment operates in the context of a rapidly changing climate.

“A critical part of this is committing to net zero emissions in the built-environment by 2030.

The Institute accepts the science on climate change and the need for a proactive response and is actively working to support built environment professionals who have a critical role to play in improving the resilience and adaptation of Australian society to changing climatic conditions.

With Australia’s built environment accounting for a quarter of Australia’s carbon emissions there is huge capacity for the Building Ministers’ to lead in this area and affect meaningful and lasting change while at the same time making Australians safer and our built environment more resilient to natural disaster.

“We look forward to working with all levels of government to urgently support the regulatory reform needed in response to this new climate reality. This needs to be prioritised alongside existing reform programs in response to the Shergold-Weir Building Confidence report on quality in construction and work on the Trajectory for Low Energy Buildings.”

A copy of the Institute’s full submission to the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements is available here.