Politics in Kicks meets International Recovery Platform’s Shingo Kouchi


Pictured: Your fair author and Mr. Shingo Kouchi

 9am, March 19th
Where: Terrace Ballroom, The Hyatt
Who: Shingo Kouchi, Senior Recovery Expert, International Recovery Platform (IRP)
What: Speaking at the Institute of Public Administration Western Australia’s “Crisis Response” event along with CEO of the Queensland Reconstruction Authority, Graeme Newton
and Office of State Security and Emergency Coordination’s Assistant Director General, Geoff Hay.

Disaster doesn’t pick a day, but if it had picked this particularly radiant Perth morning, I was in a room with the right people!

“The immediate aftermath of a disaster can cause confusion about the roles and responsibilities of non-core emergency management agencies that can slow the necessary, whole-of-government response. With our recent experience to draw upon in WA, is there a gap in our disaster preparedness if faced with a larger, more severe catastrophe?


What happens when disaster strikes? Are we in WA, Australia prepared?
Ken Raine, the event’s MC very aptly introduced this topic and co-ordinated the event with great ease, given his background as a Manager of Environmental Hazards for the Department of Environmental Regulation. The raw truth of disasters, natural or man-made is that they can strike at any time, and while the response phase is vital, the recovery phase can take years; whether it’s Lead Contamination in Esperance, or the collapse of the World Trade Centres in New York City….

…or even a Cyclone and flood in Queensland, as Graeme Newton explained…
Our North Eastern State is 26% flood plain, similar in size to WA, but with three times the population! Cyclone Yasi in 2011 activated the Queensland Reconstruction Authority [QRA] against 850 000km2 of damage [in 2011], the clean up, recovery, reconstruction and transition continue today. The cyclical nature of Queensland’s weather, and subsequent floods in 2013 and the annual cyclone season places disaster relief as an ongoing commitment for the Queensland State and Local Governments. Vertical co-operation between Federal, State and Local Governments was [and continues to be] a vital facet in effective  disaster recovery. The Queensland Reconstruction Authority Act  passed in 2011, empowers his agency to work reactively and proactively in a timely manner following a disaster, and is an example of smooth governance in a crisis. Graeme spoke confidently of the QRA’s processes and interactions with Governments and Agencies, emphasising proactivity and adaptability as effective disaster management skills. He successfully secured an $80 million ‘Betterment Fund’ last year to rebuild, reinforce, and in some cases relocate infrastructure or residences in the recovery and rebuilding process, to minimise damage as a result of future weather events; the fund currently supplies 220 projects from 32 Local Councils.

Imagine a disaster in Japan – one of the most densely populated Countries and Capital cities in the world – sitting right on a fault line – imagining the worst is Shingo Kouchi’s job!
This small East Asian Island has adapted to it’s less-than ideal location by developing one of the most sensory and modern disaster detection systems in the world.
The International Recovery Platform [IRP] for which Mr Kouchi is a Senior Recovery Expert, help prepare for the worst: Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Volcanoes, Typhoons, Cyclones, Floods, Heavy Rains and Storms. And that could all just be one year.
Not to mention man-made disasters like the continued leaking of radioactive fluid at Fukushima and the struggle to decontaminate the area.
Vertical and horizontal cooperation in Japan is not a small operation when it comes to disaster relief: A single national Government, 47 Prefectual [‘State’] Governments, and 1,742 Municipal Governments and their leaders – Prime Ministers, Governors and Mayors. The 1995 Kobe Earthquake was a very sudden event, and the lack of an immediate response was due to a lack of information – detection, warning and damage – which prevented an immediate response.
Individual education is a central priority  for the Japanese; September 1st each year is Disaster Prevention Day and there is an annual White Paper on Disaster Management. Furthermore, Japan have a Cabinet Minister for Disaster Management and it is a legal requirement for all disaster warnings regardless of level, be broadcast to the Japanese people.

Particularly since Kobe in 1995, for the Japanese, crisis response is very individually focused, reaction and recovery starts with ‘you’; education just as important as the recovery itself.

Assistant Director General Geoff Hay of the State Security and Emergency Office talked positively about WA’s Crisis Response capabilities
WA does not experience many, if at all, any large scale or widely destructive events – but our experiences of cyclones, hail storms, bush fires and any other crises have presented their own complexities.
Response plans for natural disasters, epidemics and power outages all exist, but are not regularly used. Some examples of recent reactions to crises in WA have been the Esperance Lead Contamination, various Bushfires and the March 2010 Hail Storm. Improving and developing crisis response in WA can be a complex process. While vertical co-ordination exists, there needs to be greater clarity in the respective roles and responsibilities of Local, State and Federal Governments when responding to a crisis, I.e. a bushfire. Particularly between Local and State Governments, there are qualms, in certain situations who should take ‘ownership’, or take on a leadership role in response to an event.
What is also being developed to improve detection and response to crises is a mutual federal database for protocols and plans; this information sharing will greatly assist in more timely responses and promote wider education. Through wider education, there will hopefully be an increase in disaster response volunteers, and the preservation of lives.

What did I think?
Crisis response is something that you assume is just always there, that each situation can be dealt with – and while it is very much alive and well in Australia and overseas, sometimes improvements are only made after a devastating tragedy. Crisis response is a necessary part of the duty of care that our elected representatives [Local, State and Federal] have in their duty of care for their citizens; conversely, each situation is different, and within Australia no two states are completely alike, therefore not all responses can be the same.
It was really fascinating to learn the intricacies of crisis response, particularly from Graeme and Shingo – and how recovery does not simply finish once things are rebuilt. Worldwide, we are kept ‘in check’ by what we cannot control – the weather! Some crises can be prevented more effectively than others.
But from an institutional perspective, crises have always been responded to in Australia, and I have faith in our agencies and Governments.

Hope you enjoyed reading as much as I enjoyed writing!

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