Bushfire research agency to cover other natural disasters

THE chief national bushfire research agency will be expanded to cover other natural disasters including floods and cyclones.

Justice Minister Michael Keenan today launched expansion of the research centre, with new roles to include advising governments on emergency management policy.

"The centre will inform emergency management policy across public warnings, capability, identifying vulnerabilities, emergency volunteers, and buildings and infrastructure," he said.

"A key tenant of the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience relates to improved understanding of risks posed by natural hazards, and factoring this understanding into decision-making.

"Understanding of these risks, directly informed by research, will improve responses to natural disasters, and develop community resilience."

But Mr Keenan said the new research funding, over eight years, was to deal with natural disasters, despite links between climate change and the increasing frequency of such events.

His announcement follows a Climate Council report which warned of rising intensity of bushfires across the continent.

Council chief Professor Tim Flannery said while Australia had always experiences bushfires, "climate change is driving up the risk of fire danger weather".

He said the Council had found the number of "record hot days" had doubled in the past 50 years, heatwaves were longer and more often and the fire season now stretched from October to March.

"In the future fire frequency and intensity is expected to increase substantially in many regions, especially in those regions currently most affected by bushfires," he said.

"This means it is crucial that our communities, emergency service workers and health services prepare for the increasing severity and frequency of extreme fire conditions."

The new Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC was established with a $47 million federal government grant as well as support from industry and states and territories.

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