From disaster to renewal: the centrality of business recovery to community resilience

Regional planning Business Disasters Community recovery Disaster resilience Queensland Victoria

This report looks at natural disaster recovery in Australia. The report, which draws on case studies of four towns still recovering from flooding, cyclones and bushfires up to five years down the track, reveals there is inadequate planning for many of the short and long-term disaster effects.

Not only this, the RAI found that many recovery efforts fail to take advantage of significant financial reinvestment in a community, focusing excessively on returning a town back to ‘normal’ rather than adapting to changed economic drivers or exploring opportunities for renewal. It might not be until 5-10 years down the track that the full impact of a disaster on a community is realised, by which stage reversing the negative economic trend can be extremely difficult.

Looking at some of the typical barriers to the recovery process, the RAI found that even something as innocent as well-intentioned physical donations were a mixed blessing, not only presenting problems with storage and distribution, but weakening the demand for local business. The role of the media in the recovery process is also scrutinised in the report, with an excessive focus on the extent of destruction in a town seen as driving post-disaster stigma; the perception among the wider community that the town has been wiped off the map. Not only does this have a negative impact on the psyche of the recovering town – and peoples’ decisions to stay and rebuild – but it can deter important economic drivers like tourism and investment later down the track, when images of destruction continue to resonate long after the media attention has turned elsewhere.

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