Emergency Disaster Recovery & Water

Our mindset towards disaster recovery aligns itself with reconstruction authorities, by shifting from ‘getting ready’ to ‘being ready’ for disaster seasons, which saw four events impact the state in 2022-23. Our approach relies on achieving the objective for a coordinated action to improve the resilience of Queensland communities by facilitating and delivering locally led disaster recovery.

Building Safer and Resilient Communities

A fundamental question facing us all,especially after Australia’s unprecedented bush fires and floods is how will reconstruction efforts be done differently? Our social obligation and community-consciousness should impel professional engineers to ensure our reconstruction and recovery efforts make communities safer, protect and integrate into our environment and improve our capacity to cope with future disasters in terms of frequency and severity.

With climate change increasing the probability of extreme weather events, coupled with the surge in population growth, land development, and infrastructure projects, concerted effort has been made to integrate disaster risks into the medium-long term fiscal framework. The goal should be to enable resources to hit the ground running by streamlining the process for procurement. The rapid deployment of resources in reality is bottlenecked by the established policies which are aligned with traditional engineering delivery methodologies. To that end, the delivery of the recovery program is frequently compressed and resources undertaking the work – with the exception of Immediate Reconstruction Works (IRW) or First Response Emergency Works (FREW) delivery – are under pressure to inspect, collect evidence, assess eligibility, design, cost and delivery with the program milestones.

Academia, all levels of government, national and international agencies such as National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNDRR) have been busy promoting post-disaster reconstruction as a window of opportunity to build resilience. This is not only limited to rebuilding physical infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, or roads – to be safer than pre-disaster conditions, but creating an opportunity to revive local businesses, increase employment and training, heal communities and restore assets in such a manner as to better withstand multiple forms of disaster. For example, the same road asset may experience a tropical cyclone during one season and subsequent bushfire during the next as in the case of Binna Burra Road during Event 17E ex Tropical Cyclone Debbie (completed in June 2019) and Event 20A Queensland Bushfires, September 2019 – just three months after reconstruction was completed.

Challenges in Reconstruction

This is easier said than done. Reconstruction is a highly complex and lengthy process which faces two key challenges, among others, are a lack of long-term funding commitment past initial reconstruction adopting a like for like approach and a stringent eligibility guideline with makes collaboration between funding authorities and asset owners ineffectively at best to integrate capacity building into the reconstruction projects.

Reconstruction programs necessitate a balance between competing demands. The desire for expedited rebuilding must be weighed against considerations of long-term challenges such as climate change,adaptation, and sustainability. This desire acknowledges that communities undergo mental and emotional distress by experiencing loss or displacement during and immediately after a disaster event, which progresses into fatigue waiting for protracted construction to be completed. This only exacerbated when disaster events occur in succession and compounds the experience of distress and fatigue.  

The Role of Government

Australia needs a marriage between government leadership and innovation by grassroots community organisations to produce a well-planned recovery program that helps us achieve a resilient future.

Reducing the risk and impact of natural disasters across Australia has prompted the Federal Government and state and territory governments, commit to jointly invest $261 million over the five years from 2019 - 20 for a Disaster Risk Reduction Package, to reduce the risk and impact of natural disasters.

Funding supports activities aligned to the National Disaster Risk Reduction Framework that:

  • take action to reduce current disaster risk;
  • minimise creation of future disaster risk; and
  • equip decision-makers with the capabilities and information they need to reduce disaster risk.

The Federal Budget 2023-24 is geared to deliver strong investments in emergency management, building on the previous year’s establishment of the National Emergency Management Agency and the $1 Billion Disaster Ready Fund. This investment is made with the desire to ensure a cohesive approach to natural hazard preparedness and emergency response and recovery.

Last year, nearly 70 per cent of Australians were impacted by storms, floods, cyclones and bushfires and the Australian public expects the Commonwealth to do more to improve the resilience of Australian communities.

Under this guise a greater investment in risk reduction and coordination of all-hazard preparedness, response and recovery through the following Budget 2023-24 initiatives:

BG&E's Involvement

Since December 2020, BG&E have been involved in the recovery and reconstruction of Disaster Activations for Events 21C, 21J, 22A, 22I, 22F and the recently awarded 23C. The delivery of these reconstruction programs has been carried out across multiple Local Government Authorities, namely: City of Gold Coast, Logan City, Tweed Shire Council, Noosa Shire and Scenic Rim Regional Council.

Logistically speaking, in the southeast coast alone coverage of post-disaster inspections is carried out on 59 State owned assets across 1060kms of roads spanning a variety of formations from suburban to hinterland ranges within national parks. To date we estimate that over 7,500kms have been inspected for eligible restoration works.

BG&E’s provision of civil and construction engineering services includes undertaking inspection of damaged sites for eligibility assessment, providing technical evidence to support funding in accordance with eligibility guidelines and Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements criteria. The collated evidence is utilised to comprise the project scope, produce cost estimates and complete detailed design.

Shoemaker Rd — Waipu, NZ.

Having established an outstanding reputation as the ‘go-to’ consultant in Southeast Queensland, BG&E is expanding its DRFA capabilities and regional presence by actively engaging in opportunities to delivery projects in New South Wales (Northern Rivers), Western Australia and New Zealand (North Island).  

Some of the projects that we have made a positive contribution include:

  • Tropical Low Event 21C - December 2020, Queensland
  • Severe Weather Event 21J - March 2021, Queensland
  • Heavy Rainfall and Flooding Event 22A - December 2021, Queensland
  • Severe Weather and Flooding Event ARGN 1012 - Feb 2022, New South Wales
  • Heavy Rainfall and Flooding Event 22I - March 2022, Queensland
  • Heavy Rainfall and Flooding Event 22F - May 2022, Queensland
  • Heavy Rainfall and Flooding Event 23C - December 2022, Queensland
  • Tropical Cyclone Ellie - January 2023, Fitzroy Crossing Bridge, Kimberley, Western Australia
  • Tropical Cyclone Gabrielle - February 2023, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand

Source: CM: QRATF/22/6915 DOC/23/1106 • GD:0734

Max Gregori says: “Engineers play a critical role in providing technical advice in a timely and responsive manner to ensure the infrastructure is safe, providing technical insights for restoration project scoping, value for money costing and practical detailed design, in addition to technical evidence required for funding approval.”

The work requires adaptation to evolving project scopes, competing priorities, and responding to real-time emergencies across the regions as we assist to undertake expedited emergency repairs and re-connect hinterland communities cut off from the coast.

BG&E’s engineering and technical insight in developing integrated treatments which can support a business case to rebuild state owned infrastructure. The development of the designs is in accordance with current standards and adopt a holistic approach by employing best practices though a consistent team of experienced professionals. Delivering the designs through to construction completion provides a ‘cradle to grave’ experience in delivery Emergency and Disaster Management best practice.