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Climate change report warns of increased demand on emergency services in Queensland

By Jessica van Vonderen, Friday September 7, 2018 - 07:27 EST
ABC image
Robert Holness surveys the damage after his house in Marmor, south of Rockhampton, was torn apart as Tropical Cyclone Marcia passed over the central Queensland town in February 2015. - ABC

An increased risk of fire and flood across the state will put extra demand on emergency services and require a "significant financial commitment", a new climate change strategy has revealed.

Emergency Services Minister Craig Crawford will today release a plan designed to help first responders get ready for future weather extremes.

It warns of the potential for climate change to increase the frequency, intensity, duration and distribution of bushfires, heatwaves and coastal inundation.

"We've all got to accept the world is changing. Queensland is changing," Mr Crawford said.

"There are plenty of people out there who are climate change sceptics... but the consensus is our fire seasons are getting hotter and longer and our flood and cyclone seasons are certainly getting stronger and more frequent."



The Emergency Management strategy has been developed in conjunction with the environment department, Griffith University Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, local councils, the Bureau of Meteorology, CSIRO and the Queensland Farmers Federation.

Mr Crawford said emergency services had to be prepared for "anything and everything".

"This is massive state. We're one of the only states in Australia where we could potentially have wild fires burning in the southern part of the state on the same day as we have a cyclone ravaging the north, so we have to be ready for whatever the future holds for us," he said.

That could mean extra training and equipment for first responders and rethinking how quickly they could be deployed across larger parts of the state.

"If we're going to have cyclones happening in parts of Queensland that they don't normally happen right now it means that we're going to have to expand all the areas where we have response training, capability and everything like that," Mr Crawford said.

"That will cause a significant financial cost to us that we'll have to manage as we go into the future."



Cairns Regional Council Deputy Mayor and Local Disaster Management Group chair Terry James said local governments needed to prepare for the consequences of climate change.

"We recognise that our coastal communities are facing increased threats from erosion, storm tide flooding and rising sea levels," Counsellor James said.

"That is why it is so important all levels of government work together to assess risks and identify practical solutions that will help them prepare for the growing threat of climate change."

Queensland is no stranger to natural disasters and weather extremes.

This year the bushfire season started early, with crews battling more than 1,000 vegetation blazes in August alone.

Cyclone Debbie in 2017 and Cyclone Marcia in 2015 wrought billions of dollars in damage to parts of the central and North Queensland coasts.


- ABC

© ABC 2018

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