Benefits and costs of provision of post cyclone emergency services

The key issue in this report is whether it would be socially desirable to provide enhanced post-cyclone emergency services in towns such as Cairns. One means of addressing the issue is to estimate the net social benefit that would accrue to Cairns residents. Focus groups of residents identified four services as being the most relevant: accommodation of pets in shelters, police patrols for a longer period after a cyclone, faster resupply of fresh food to shops, and faster reconnection of utilities such as electricity and sewerage.

A choice experiment indicated that Cairns households were on average prepared to pay about $124 per annum for faster resupply of fresh food, and almost three times more each year for faster reconnection of utilities, but only about $11 per annum for each additional day of police patrols. However, residents expressed an average negative willingness to pay about -$99 per annum per household for accommodation of pets in a shelter after a cyclone. It was not possible to obtain entirely satisfactory corresponding estimates of costs for these services.

It was also clear that it might not always be possible to achieve faster provision of emergency services, given the post-cyclone logistical challenges faced by commercial organisations as well as government agencies. Nevertheless, estimated net present values for faster provision of fresh food, faster reconnection of utilities, and longer police patrols are all positive.

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