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Transcript of speech to the 6th Tropical Cyclone Coastal Impacts Program Workshop, National Convention Centre, Canberra.



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Speech The Hon Dr Sharman Stone Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Heritage Federal Member for Murray

6th Tropical Cyclone Coastal Impacts Program Workshop National Convention Centre, Canberra Tuesday 9 September 2003

Speech Transcript: 6th Tropical Cyclone Coastal Impacts Program Workshop

Welcome to the 6th Tropical Cyclone Coastal Impacts Program Workshop.

Tropical cyclones represent the most regularly occurring large-scale weather-related disaster threat we face in this Region.

Tropical cyclones that impact Australia's northern coastal regions and the close Pacific region can have a devastating affect in coastal and island communities. One only has to recall the destructive effect 'Cyclone Tracy' in Darwin on Christmas Eve 1974, and more recently the Cyclone Zoe's destruction of Tikopia and Anuta in the Solomon Islands over 3 days in late December 2002.

They are one of the most common natural hazards and many would argue, the most predictable. Yet, there is still much that we do not know about cyclone processes and how the communities that they impact can be better informed and better managed so that their losses can be minimized.

Perhaps one of the greater 'unknowns' is the how global warming will affect cyclone frequency and intensity in our region and how this will affect our coastal environments.

In the past two summers in south-eastern Australia we have seen very extensive fires and, of course, one of the worst droughts in our history affecting nearly 70 per cent of our land area. As we know the personal and economic impact of these disasters is great and we are reminded of the simultaneous harshness and beauty of our land.

The only positive feature of bushfires and droughts in a statistical sense is that after they occur we usually get at least a few years of more kind weather. For tropical cyclones. however, the threat is present around our tropical coasts virtually every cyclone season.

This workshop is very important because it brings together the scientists, the social researchers, the disaster managers and the policy makers to talk about better ways of managing these annual, natural threats.

The Workshop marks a new beginning for Tropical Cyclone Coastal Impacts Program and provides the opportunity for developing a new direction.

Throughout the 1990s, the Tropical Cyclone Coastal Impacts Program was a highly successful collaborative initiative of the International Decade of Natural Disaster Reduction (IDNDR) involving government agencies, universities and industries 'working together' in a coordinated program of research and development to reduce cyclone impacts in Queensland's coastal communities.

The end of the IDNDR in 1999 marked the end of the original Impacts Program, but strong support from the national and international research community and from Australian emergency managers has encouraged the program to reform and continue to provide a platform and framework for cooperative and collaborative tropical cyclone research.

As before, it is concerned with the development of consistent best tropical-cyclone-management practice, but with the focus expanded to include the Tropical Australian and Pacific region.

I am pleased to see the breadth of interests involved today. I understand workshop participants come from many different sectors:

● Universities, specialist research centres and consultancies;

● Local government authorities,;

● State and Territory Emergency Management Authorities;

● Other State government authorities;

● The Commonwealth Bureau of Meteorology;

● Emergency Management Australia;

● Indigenous communities from Western Australia;

● Solomon Islands Disaster Management Office; and

● the re-insurance industry.

This represents an excellent cross section of prominent tropical cyclone researchers, emergency managers, policy advisers and others concerned with managing the impacts of tropical cyclones.

All share a common interest in advancing our understanding of tropical cyclone processes and reducing and managing the tropical cyclone risk in Australia and throughout our South Pacific neighbourhood.

I see from the program that there are many the research challenges and issues that that will be considered throughout today's discussions such as:

● engineering housing construction and design;

● risk mapping and GIS applications;

● wave and seawater inundation;

● societal, economic and insurance aspects;

● climatology, historical archives and impact databases; and

● public awareness and education programs.

Understanding the dynamics of cyclones, and the potential likely changes in these dynamics, gives policy makers and emergency managers the opportunity to work together with communities to develop best management practices to achieve sustainable community safety.

Today's workshop provides the opportunity and the forum for building and strengthening partnerships. It will facilitate the tropical-cyclone-management community collectively and cooperatively establishing a framework and a 'way forward' for holistically and sustainably managing the tropical cyclone risk.

I congratulate the organizers for such a stimulating program and wish you all a successful day.

I am very happy to declare the 6th Tropical Cyclone Coastal Impacts Program Workshop open.