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As yet more bad weather looms, minister announces new body to tackle a familiar threat

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A new national disaster management agency will be created to help Australians get through their “darkest hours” with severe flooding likely to be on the way as the nation approaches a “high risk” weather season.

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Emergency Management Minister and Queensland Senator Murray Watt announced the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) would come into effect from Thursday, and lead the country’s response to natural disasters.

“The new NEMA will transform the way the federal government supports the Australian people in their darkest hours and help communities respond and rebuild,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“It’s about preparing, building resilience, responding and recovering.

“Our view is … that is going to work in a much more co-ordinated manner, if all of those functions sit under one roof with one set of leadership.”

Bureau of Meteorology senior climatologist Greg Browning said the forecast for the next three months showed the country moving into a “high risk weather season” with flooding as the major risk, over bushfires or heatwaves.

Browning said severe storms, intense rainfall, and giant hail were likely to batter the eastern states, with bushfires to hit the northern part of Australia.

An early tropical cyclone could also develop in northern Australia.

The body will be created following a merger of Emergency Management Australia and the National Recovery and Resilience Agency.

Watt said disasters cost Australia $38 billion a year, with that bill set to soar to $73 billion a year by 2060.

While the government was doing what it could to be prepared for disasters, Australians also needed to take steps to ensure their safety, he said.

Watt said the government was undertaking a recruitment process to identify a new head for the agency with an announcement to be made soon.

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