Flooding in Toowoomba, 2011

Built environment professionals can ensure Australian communities are better protected from the impacts of climate change and natural disasters by getting a better understanding of risk and resilience and how to factor them into plans and buildings, according to the Planning Institute of Australia.

PIA has released an e-handbook, the National Land Use Planning Guidelines for Disaster Resilient Communities, that brings together some of the best-practice thinking in the area of disaster planning, recovery and betterment, including the Rockefeller Foundation’s Framework for Resilient Cities and the outcomes of the Productivity Commission Inquiry into Natural Disaster Funding Arrangements.

As a companion to the handbook, PIA has released a Disaster Resilience Education Implementation Plan and is developing a seven module education program for planners, architects, engineers and others responsible for developing the built environment.

The project was funded by the Attorney-General’s Department under the 2014-15 National Emergency Management Projects grants program as part of the Disaster Resilience Australia Package.

“Land use planning has consistently been identified as one of the key means to reduce natural disaster risks to our communities and help build long-term resilience,” PIA chief executive Kirsty Kelly said.

“We cannot always resist or control natural hazards but rather need learn to adapt our cities and towns to them through land use planning. Guidance and tools have historically been limited, but we hope this document is the first step in providing the national-level best practice guidance needed to help build more resilient communities.”

In the handbook introduction, Ms Kelly said that while considering natural hazards in planning was not new in Australia, there had been no national-level best practice guidance.

“Environmental change is accelerating and natural disasters are increasing in frequency thanks to climate change. So it is imperative, especially in a country as vulnerable to environmental extremes as ours, that we develop a national framework for addressing and coping with these changes and disasters,” Ms Kelly said.

“Beyond that, we need to educate and encourage land use planners to make a paradigm shift – from playing a relatively passive, supporting role to taking the lead in ensuring that our settlements are safe, strong and sustainable.”

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