Better Approach Needed to Planning for Bushfire Risk – New Report

A report prepared by a research team at the University of Canberra has found that urban growth and the projected impacts of climate change are likely to expose more people to the risk of bushfire.

The report, titled Planning and bushfire risk in a changing climate, was prepared by a research team headed by Professor Barbara Norman, the foundation chair and head of Urban and Regional Planning at the University. Co-authors of the report were Dr Jessica Weir, Dr Kate Sullivan and Adjunct Professor Jacqui Lavis. The study was funded by a grant from the Bushfire Cooperative Research Centre.

The report notes that the connection between urban and regional planning and bushfire risk management has been highlighted in sixteen major bushfire inquiries in Australia conducted since 1939. Despite this, there has been only relatively minor research into the contribution of planning to minimise risk and the connection between planning and emergency management in relation to bushfires.

The findings of the report will be presented at the Australian Coastal Councils Conference, in March 2015, and will be the subject of a workshop at the conference.

One of the key findings of the research project is the need for a more integrated approach to planning for fire risk that better connects planners with people involved in emergency management and risk assessment.

The report has identified the importance of better understanding:

  • The links between planning and bushfire risk;
  • Recognising the differences in risk perception influenced by history, landscape and experience;
  • Implementing effective planning and development controls; and
  • Providing appropriate education and training.

A key message from the research is that the decision-making process is critical to achieving a workable and sustainable solution on the ground.

For example, it notes:
We continue to approve urban development in areas of high fire risk, bringing with it very significant challenges to all stakeholders now and in the future. Finding solutions to such an intractable problem will require collaborations and partnerships between decision-makers, professionals and affected communities.

The report notes that: added to this complexity are expanding urban areas from Darwin to Melbourne and the challenges of continuing urban development in Australian coastal regions that are already experiencing environmental change and projections of an even hotter environment and an increased potential for fire risk.

The full report is available at – Planning and bushfire risk in a changing climate

Image credit: Bushfire CRC
Image credit: Bushfire CRC