Final Report: Cross-Scale Barriers to Climate Change Adaptation in Local Government, Australia

The main objective of this research was to identify the factors that inhibit and enable adaptation strategies within flood affected communities. To achieve this, a mixed methods survey was carried out in three case study locations: Brisbane and Emerald, Queensland, and Donald, Victoria. In order to understand the broader story from a local perspective, we also investigated people’s experience of the flood in terms of response and recovery.

A scoping analysis was undertaken in Brisbane and Emerald in January 2011, immediately following flooding in both these areas, with follow-up field work conducted in Donald and Emerald in August 2011 and four suburbs of Brisbane in September 2011. The suburbs of Chelmer, Graceville, Tennyson and Rocklea were selected for analysis in Brisbane following discussion with officials at the Queensland Government Department of Communities – Communities, Child Safety, Youth and Families. During these discussions it was suggested that residents within each of these communities represent a variety of demographic groups impacted by the floods.

The two primary levels of information gathering were from: 1) households in flood affected areas and 2) local and state government institutions and authorities that provide services to the community. Qualitative and quantitative data were collected via face-to-face interviews and questionnaires distributed door-to-door and online.

The survey results provide a great deal of valuable information on the various barriers and opportunities people face in making changes to reduce their vulnerability to flood prior to, during and after an event. The main factors that were identified as either enabling or inhibiting response, recovery and adaptation are: direct experience; outcome expectancy;  methods of communication and availability of information; governance and physical protection; uncertainty surrounding insurance; financial restraint and relief assistance; housing design and construction; personal health and wellbeing, options for relocation; and, positive and negatives aspects of volunteerism as well as community initiatives.

A dominant finding from the study is that a greater number of constraints inhibit adaptation than factors that enable adaptive change and behaviour. However, balanced against the criticisms and fault identification the study showed resilient communities getting on with their lives and largely driving recovery themselves. The extensive qualitative comments and opinions garnered from interviews and questionnaires reflect high levels of acceptance of catastrophe and stoic endurance. This does not necessarily translate to adaptation to future events and a changed hazard landscape, but it does reflect strong resilience in the community. That resilience can be built on to advance adaptive behaviour, but it needs to be nurtured and facilitated by external agencies.

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Detailed Descriptions
Geographic and Temporal Extents
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Attributions and Constraints
Pierre Mukheibir,Natasha Kuruppu,Anna Gero,Jade Herriman