Minimising the impact of future disasters

13 October 2022

Interview with Andrew Armitstead, CivicRisk Mutual

October 13 marks the United Nations’ International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction. This year’s focus in on early warning systems, which are proven to save lives and reduce economic losses in the face of natural disasters.

BCCM Member CivicRisk Mutual is all too familiar with the devastation of natural disasters in Australia, and this year the mutual has been instrumental in supporting its members, which are local Councils across NSW, to rebuild their communities and look to the future in the aftermath of the devastating floods of 2022.

The past 18 months have been a busy time. CEO of CivicRisk Mutual, Andrew Armitstead, explains the mutual ensures “Council buildings and community facilities affected by the flood are repaired. In the case of our regional Councils, we provide water and sewerage services to properties.” He notes that the 2022 floods have resulted in the “largest number and most expensive flood claims in our 34-year history”, with CivicRisk Mutual stepping up immediately after the floods to support its members. They made “immediate payments to Council to get them back and running once we knew the extent of the problem so they had cash to start rebuilding.” But the assistance doesn’t stop there; CivicRisk Mutual supported its members to navigate government financial supports to fund the repair of uninsured assets such as roads and parks. It also provided resources for Councils to assist their residents in making insurance claims.

The benefit of the mutual model is that member Councils are able to spread risk across multiple areas which have different weather vulnerabilities. This makes insurance far more accessible than if individual Councils had to obtain cover independently. It also provides solidarity in terms of the human element – dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters is stressful and exhausting, and members are able to support one another and share knowledge. Ultimately, this results in better outcomes for communities as they rebuild.

Looking to the future, Andrew explains there are ways the sector can be proactive in minimising the impact of future disasters. This includes considering the relocation of insured buildings, strengthening emergency procedures to protect vital equipment, and providing training to ensure that the lessons of this year’s floods are acted upon. He also notes that co-operation among the different levels of government is critical in building resilient communities and their infrastructure.

Although largely unseen by the public, the work of CivicRisk Mutual is more critical than ever. With increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events predicted for the future, this mutual plays an important role in disaster risk reduction and recovery, supporting the long-term wellbeing of communities and enabling individuals to reclaim a sense of normalcy in the face of disaster.

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