Australia costs from natural disasters to soar: study

BERLIN (AFP) - The cost of natural disasters in Australia is set to nearly quadruple by 2050 but could be dramatically reduced by national investment in preventive measures, a German reinsurer said Thursday.

Munich Re said that, as Australia's population density increases as well as the severity and frequency of storms, floods, cyclones and bushfires, the costs were projected to soar from A$6.3 billion (S$7.5 billion) a year currently to about A$23 billion a year in 2050.

Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurer, is part of the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities, a forum of business, companies and the Australian Red Cross established in 2012, which produced the study.

Investment in preventative measures could reduce the disaster-response cost to the government by more than 50 per cent, it added.

"Spending of authorities on post-disaster recovery is eleven times higher than for measures to improve the safety of the Australian communities prior to disasters," Ludger Arnoldussen, Munich Re board member responsible for the Asia Pacific region, said in the statement.

"With a focus on prevention, damage could be partly avoided and expenditure reduced significantly," he added.

The Australian government spends currently an estimated A$560 million annually on post-disaster relief and recovery compared with an estimated A$50 million on pre-disaster resilience, it said.

Between 1967 and 2012, Australia suffered at least four natural disasters a year, with 2011 the worst year on record.