Living with floods: Key lessons from Australia and abroad

TitleLiving with floods: Key lessons from Australia and abroad
Publication TypeReport

Project Page   Final Report

Year of Publication2013
AuthorsWenger, C, Hussey, K, Pittock, J
InstitutionNational Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility
CityGold Coast
ISBN Number978-1-921609-89-3
Keywordsclimate variability, in-depth interviews, lessons, Queensland, recommendations, semi-structured interviews, Victoria

Following the serious flood events in Queensland and Victoria in 2010–11, and the reviews that were undertaken subsequently, this project was developed to analyse those reviews to determine whether they offered any lessons for climate change adaptation. Focusing on four major and recent reviews, but drawing on others as well, the project’s objectives were to:

    • explain the relationships between floods and climate variability, and climate change adaptation
    • synthesise the findings from the flood inquiries in Victoria and Queensland by ordering key lessons into frameworks that aid climate change adaptation by endusers
    • check the lessons from these Australian inquiries against lessons for more effective flood-risk management that have been identified overseas to explore positive synergies and differences
    • refine the draft research finding with advice from end-users through interviews and a committee, and
    • communicate the lessons for climate change adaptation and limits to adaptation with key end-users involved in flood risk management.

In addition to analysing the Australian flood reviews, the project also compared review processes and findings with similar processes overseas, including those in the Netherlands, China and the United States, to determine points of similarity that reinforced Australian findings and to explore differences. In addition to analysing the reviews themselves, the project team also conducted a series of semi-structured, in-depth interviews with relevant sectors, including insurance, emergency services, floodplain managers, ecosystem researchers, local government and urban utilities.

The reviews varied greatly in their scope, but one of the most notable findings was that Australian reviews virtually ignored the issue of climate change and its impact on flooding; some reports didn’t refer to it at all. The vast majority of recommendations in all reviews pointed to a need for better governance, coordination, integration, policies, strategies, management, management tools, standards, legislation, accountabilities, oversight, communication, resourcing, risk-assessment, planning, education and training. These are all socio-institutional issues, which are vital for the effective implementation of any adaptation measures. In contrast to the Australian reviews, climate change was a driving force behind the international reviewers, and all three international reviews overwhelmingly pointed to a need for ecosystem approaches to flood control. Each of the reports from the Netherlands, the United States and China had important lessons for Australia’s flood policies, particularly in relation to structural versus non-structural measures, the role of disaster relief funds, flood insurance and the use of mitigation measures such as voluntary land purchase and relocation.

Refereed DesignationRefereed