Community connections key to surviving disasters

By Jane Muller, Senior Research & Policy Officer, Growcom


Heat waves, floods, severe storms and hail are the kinds of events that make life as a strawberry grower particularly challenging – and strawberry growing districts have certainly had their fair share of extreme weather and natural disasters over recent years.

In light of these recent events, there has been a growing focus across the business community on preparedness and disaster resilience. Growcom has been working with horticultural growers around Queensland to distil what lessons have been learned from the state’s string of natural disasters and to identify what information and resources would help growers be prepared for future weather extremes.

A growers’ workshop held in Caboolture in May 2014 highlighted that improving connections between growers, regional council staff, industry organisations, catchment groups and political representatives was essential for both natural disaster preparedness and recovery:

  • Being actively involved in diverse networks keeps you in touch with information that supports good business decisions and disaster planning
  • Involvement in industry associations means that you are on a database – so if a disaster occurs you will be automatically in the loop for emergency communications. On the flip side, growers who prefer to keep to themselves can become very isolated in a crisis situation.
  • Regional Councils play a central role in coordinating response and recovery efforts following natural disasters. Councils are keen to maintain links with grower or industry representatives who can join disaster committees if required – or simply be on call to provide industry advice or perspectives.
  • Regional natural resource management and catchment organisations are often funded following flood events to implement riverbank and catchment repair projects – having links to these organisations may provide growers with valuable assistance on their properties.
  • If an affected farming district or industry is not getting the recovery assistance required, growers need to be able to stand up and speak out. Growers or industry organisations need well established links to media and political representatives as this is often the best way to get industry needs heard.