Legal Insights

Impact of El Niño far from a dry topic

By Kate Oliver, Nancy Hua & and David Litwin

• 13 November 2018 • 1 min read

The heightened likelihood of El Niño developing presents many issues for local councils.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology’s ENSO (El Niño-Southern Oscillation) Outlook, the chance of an El Niño forming in the coming months is 70%, or three times the normal likelihood. El Niño is a climatic phenomenon characterised in the southern hemisphere by warmer than average sea surface temperatures in the central and eastern tropical Pacific. The consequences for southern Australia can include reduced rainfall, warmer temperatures and increased risk of bushfire and drought.

As the level of government closest to the community, the heightened likelihood of El Niño developing presents many issues for local councils. In addition to bushfire preparedness, councils’ mandate for the peace, order and good government of their municipal districts can carry with it responsibilities in mitigating impacts to water and open space resources and essential services. Many of these impacts are regional, rather than municipal, in nature.

Those who recall the millennium drought between 1996 and 2010 will be aware that councils in Victoria played a crucial role, including in educating the community about water restrictions, bushfire preparedness and drought mitigation.

Has your council considered the looming (although not certain) prospect of El Niño forming this year in its strategic policies and planning? What steps have been taken to reach out to the community about mitigating the possible impacts? What are the opportunities for collaborating with other councils in your region?

Looking for guidance for your council?

Contact the Local Government VIC team.

By Kate Oliver, Nancy Hua & and David Litwin

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