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Bushfire research centre wins $88 million funding

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The Bushfire and Natural Hazards Co-operative Research Centre (BNHCRC) has secured its future with a decade of public funding which the government says will herald a new era of natural hazards research and deliver real outcomes.

The organisation has been awarded $88.1 million and approval to build a new, world-class research centre for disaster resilience and risk reduction over the coming 12 months.

It will develop a new strategic research agenda for Australia alongside partners CSIRO, the Australasian Fire and Emergency Services Authorities Council, state-based emergency service agencies, universities and industry partners.

BNHCRC chair Katherine Woodthorpe says the new investment will allow Australia to remain at the forefront of natural hazards research.

“As a country, we must continue to improve how we prepare for, respond to, and recover from bushfires, cyclones, floods and storms,” Ms Woodthorpe said. “This will continue the coordinated national research effort of the last 18 years.”

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) welcomed news of the new centre, which will be co-funded by state and territory governments and emergency service agencies, universities and industry partners, and represent a national collaborative effort.

“It is the research findings that arm emergency services, planners, builders, developers and communities with the information they need to continue to improve resilience, response and recovery to future natural disasters,” ICA Head of Risk & Operations Karl Sullivan said.

The BNHCRC’s funding had been due to end in mid 2021.

The new round includes an additional $2 million to immediately investigate key issues after last summer’s extreme bushfire season, which Emergency Management minister David Littleproud said “lingers in the national psyche” and had firmed the government’s resolve to commit to the new 10-year national research centre.

“The new centre will deliver world-leading, evidence-based research to support the needs of our emergency services and communities across Australia to reduce climate and disaster risks, and prepare for, respond to and recover from future natural disasters,” he said.

Resilience to floods, cyclones and bushfires must be optimised to minimise their impact on lives, communities and the environment and sustained, long-term funding for natural hazards research “plays a pivotal role,” Mr Littleproud said.

“The government is committed to backing applied natural hazards research which will deliver tangible outcomes as well as innovative knowledge and solutions,” he said.

BNHCRC CEO Richard Thornton said natural hazards were causing more damage across Australia than ever before and the new funding would “allow us to identify the most important lessons to improve mitigation, response and recovery”.

Priorities developed by the BNHCRC between 2015 and 2019 will be the starting point for a nationally coordinated research program. View the priorities here.