Policy and Economics of Hazards

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Floods in Queensland
Floods in Queensland

Project Status:

This project, currently under development, will begin on 1 July 2017. It will produce new and innovative ways of integrating urban planning and natural hazard risk management. It will increase the understanding of what planning and emergency management can and cannot do, separately and in synergy, and develop new approaches to applying tools and methods available to planning systems to the design and management of communities as they change.

This project, currently under development, will begin on 1 July 2017. 

Urban and peri-urban planning systems have considerable potential to modify the impact of natural hazard risks in the built environment and contribute to resilience processes. Ideally, urban planning draws together a wide range of decision making processes that relate to overall settlement patterns, land uses, structure design, infrastructure and the range of social environmental and economic factors that represent urban settlements. Strategic planning processes offer the potential for higher tier coordination across a range of activities, objectives, time frames and agencies. However, connections to statutory and other implementation activities and processes are often incomplete, in conflict with each other, or are simply uncertain in the outcomes they actually achieve – as 'wicked problems'.

Beyond divisions between statutory and strategic planning, a range of fundamental challenges exist to the integration of planning with natural hazard risk management and the potential to build resilient processes for natural hazard risk management into integrated urban planning. These include:

  • Settlements invariably include pre-­existing patterns of investment, tenure and human characteristics. Changing these pre-­existing elements typically takes considerable time and concerted effort. The housing stock of an existing settlement changes at a rate of approximately 1% per annum (although much more rapidly in growth areas), meaning that existing structures may often present the greatest risks, requiring consideration in terms of retrofitting and maintenance.
  • New types of emergent and complex hazards such as heatwave and heat island, infrastructure 'brittleness' and differences of transport accessibility as well as the lack of joint consideration of multiple hazards.
  • Changing variables that define vulnerability such as migraton and social inequity -this has led to a lack of full understanding of risk profiles, resulting in potential conflicts and missed opportunities, and possibly poor outcomes.
  • Planning systems include a range of different tools that offer quite particular ways of achieving outcomes. Vision planning establishes broad directions and goals. Strategic planning seeks to guide overall direction via higher‐tier governance in an integrative way. Regulation-based tools provide decision making systems (often understood as statutory planning in Australia) that are applied as implementation rules to achieve strategic goals by ensuring alignment of incremental changes over time. Master planning approaches pre-­design aspects of settlements that are subsequently built. Project planning establishes governance and financial systems that achieve challenging outcomes in specific locations, such as waterfront developments. Project planning seeks to directly build or achieve particular outcomes, such as infrastructure, and may be based heavily on funding structures. In Australia, while uneven, the historical legacy is that statutory planning has been emphasised, even when it is sometimes not the best choice.
  • Planning systems operate at national, state, regional and local levels,  are run by public entities, while most change in settlements is driven wholly or partly by the private sector on a site by site basis.
  • The institutions of planning themselves are far from all-­powerful, being bound by political, legal, bureaucratic, physical and bio-­physical and economic constraints, and are seeking to achieve multiple goals, many of which are disparate or in conflict with risk management processes. This often combines with difficulties of considering long-­term social and environmental change.
  • Data is often limited in the forms suitable for practitioners at the time they need to make decisions.
  • Imperfect understanding of planning by emergency management policy makers and practitioners, and vice versa, particularly relating to co-benefits across a range of social, health, economic and environmental goals.

At a general level, the main solutions this project aims to develop are:

  • Increased understanding of what planning and emergency management can and cannot do, separately and in possible synergy,
  • Develop new approaches to applying tools and methods available to planning systems to the design and management of communities as they dynamically change. 
22 March, 2017
An exciting new direction of natural hazards research in Australia is set to begin, with seven new Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC projects beginning in July. These new projects, covering coastal management, emergency management capability, land use planning and recovery, are part of the next phase of national research into natural hazards.

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