Dire need for businesses and economy to recover after floods

RESURRECTING local businesses and the economy is crucial to help communities recover from natural disasters, a study of the recovery of Emerald in Central Queensland from major floods in recent years has confirmed.

The major economic centre for the Central Highlands, Emerald suffered from a major flood in 2008 and two more in 2010.

Research by the Regional Australia Institute into the recovery process in Emerald has revealed the dire need to get businesses and communications back up and running after natural disasters.

RAI general manager of research and policy Jack Archer said the focus of natural disaster recovery was often on rebuilding physical infrastructure.

But he said the research and a case study of Emerald's recovery showed if effort was not put to getting local businesses up and running, the recovery of towns in similar situations could be endangered.

"Emerald's experience in recent years has highlighted the importance of protecting or quickly restoring transport and communications after an event," Mr Archer said.

"The town's isolation meant that even recovery for businesses without flood damage was jeopardised by access to supplies and markets, so the restoration of this key infrastructure as soon as possible was critical."

Examining the town's recovery from repeated flooding, the RAI research highlighted the positive impact of Emerald's businesses and industries preparing for events in the future, which was seen as especially valuable to the coordination of the clean-up.

"Emerald also provides an interesting contrast to that of other disaster-struck areas, because major mining projects in the town meant economic recovery was more immediately achievable than for other regions, and the town's growth potential has remained strong," Mr Archer said.

"However, the town will need to adjust to a future where further disasters might occur without external investment to insulate it.

"Mitigation and preparation for this should be a priority for businesses and industry."

The research project also examined three other regional Australian towns recovering from natural disasters including Cardwell in north Queensland, as part of a wider research project.

Emerald residents were encouraged by the RAI to share their experiences of recovery online at http://www.regionalaustralia.org.au

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