Disaster Management research currently being conducted by the Griffith School of Government and International Relations was presented earlier this month at the State Services Commission (SSC) and ANZSOG applied learning event in Christchurch.

The event, titled Ground Zero: Innovations in public management post-disaster, the Australasian experience, drew on the lessons learned from Australia’s and New Zealand’s experience with natural disasters.

Associate Professor Anne Tiernan was one of two keynote speakers, along with Roger Sutton of the Canterbury Earthquake Reconstruction Authority, at the applied learning event on November 7 and said it was an important opportunity for practitioners and researchers in Australia and New Zealand to critically reflect on disaster management policies.

“Through domestic experiences in the past decade such as the Canterbury earthquakes and the Brisbane floods, and internationally through contributing assistance, Australia and New Zealand have significant experience and expertise in managing natural disasters,” Associate Professor Tiernan said.

“The government’s ability to cope effectively with challenges on this scale suggest a need to understand the public policy and governance capacities that underpin their response.”

Associate Professor Tiernan said Australia’s disaster management system was far from perfect but had shown itself to be flexible, responsive, capable of learning, and adaptive.

“We are currently experiencing a policy gap in disaster management policy,”Associate Professor Tiernan said.

“We argue that the gap is the lack of policy and funding framework to ensure the lessons learned in response and recovery are integrated back into prevention and preparedness.

“Often rather than offering opportunities for learning and improvement, they become adversarial and seemingly interested mostly in apportioning blame.

“A key challenge is to ensure resilience is not undermined by government actions in recovery, which can pose a serious dilemma particularly with media focus on affected individuals and communities.

Associate Professor Tiernan said cooperative arrangements between jurisdictions are imperative to promoting dialogue, exchange, and policy learning.

“Relationships are crucial to getting things done, particularly during the response. Respondents have consistently emphasized the need to constantly cultivate relationships during ‘peace time’ as the basis for collaboration.”