IN FLOOD AND FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT:
THE AUSTRALIAN SCENE
Chairman, Upper Parramatta River Catchment Trust
While Australia is essentially a dry continent in terms of low average rainfall and runoff, its climate is
extremely variable and devastating floods are a periodic occurrence. These floods are particularly
damaging in the large capital cities and other metropolitan areas along the eastern and south-eastern
seaboard where 80 percent of the national population is located.
In Australia, there is now general agreement among the tiers of government and the individual states
that the aim of policies designed to manage the flood hazard is the reduction of economic, social and
environmental losses to individuals and the community. While the overall aim of loss reduction is
generally accepted, there are variations in state policies and measures to best achieve this goal.
However, Australian floodplain management practice is largely directed towards alleviating the
damage potential of existing development at risk of flooding and to ensure that there is no growth in
the potential for loss due to development inappropriately sited on flood-liable lands.
In recent years, there has been a general trend to accommodate more rational economic growth on
floodplains by adopting development policies which are merit-based and formulated in consultation
with the community rather than prescriptive policies which are imposed by the higher tiers of
government. It is accepted that optimum floodplain management is a complex problem involving a
range of technical, policy and implementation components. It is also accepted that an appropriate
flood management system should focus on:
containing the problem;
public safety; and
reduction of flood losses.
Achieving the optimum system requires that a greater emphasis be placed on all of the above
components. The main thrust in developing optimum floodplain management in Australia is directed
towards the complete integration of all aspects of floodplain management into a comprehensive
process. This process is termed “Integrated Floodplain Management”.
2. ROLE OF GOVERNMENT
In Australia there are basically three levels of government – federal, state and local – all of which now
have significant involvement in flood mitigation activity. In many districts there is a fourth level, the
regional level between state and local government organizations, at which valley-based organizations
have been set up to take responsibility for such activities as flood mitigation and catchment
The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the United
Nations or of the government of Australia.
management. This role is taken by a variety of regional agencies, such as flood mitigation county
councils and catchment management trusts, boards and authorities.
In the various Australian states, the scheme for floodplain management typically involves local
councils, a state drainage or rural water supply authority (called the “Flood Authority”) and the state
planning authority responsible for approving town plans and planning schemes. The Flood Authority
is responsible for undertaking and supervising flood studies, for the preparation of flood maps, and for
the delineation of floodway and flood fringe zones. The core of government flooding experience,
expertise and technical advice resides with the Flood Authority. The local council is responsible for
implementing floodplain management measures.
3. DEVELOPMENT OF FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT PRACTICES
Although periodic flooding has been a problem since the beginnings of European settlement in 1788,
concerted programmes of flood mitigation in Australia did not commence until the middle of the 20th
century. The heavy flood damage experienced by many Australian communities during the 1950s
resulted in the establishment of flood mitigation programmes, based mainly on structural works, for
many river valleys and communities. In the main, the structural works suggested or implemented
under these programmes involved the construction of levees, flood gates, riverbank protection and
channel improvement. Implementation of these floodplain management measures was largely a local
government responsibility with little involvement by either federal or state governments. Local
government controls were typically exercised through building regulations. No guidance was given to
local governments and floodplain management developed on an ad hoc basis. The creation of regional
authorities enabled coordinated drainage practices and standards to be achieved within limited areas.
However, on a state-wide basis, floodplain management was characterized at the municipal level by a
lack of standards and a lack of coordinated programmes. In general, effective floodplain management
was hampered by a general lack of control over land-use developments within floodplain areas.
Despite the expenditure of many millions of dollars on flood mitigation works, heavy flood damage
and loss of life were experienced during the 1970s. Much of the damage was a result of the benefits of
structural works being offset by new developments on the floodplain and by protective works not
being suitable in all situations. Moreover, the benefits of structural works were outstripped by the
growth in the number of new properties at risk. In addition, a series of severe floods in the eastern
states of Australia caused widespread and significant damage. The aftermath of these floods alerted
the authorities to the fact that the nation’s damage bill was not being contained. This promoted a
serious review of previous floodplain management practice and the consideration of a wide range of
non-structural approaches by the federal and state governments. At this time, planning measures that
emphasised land-use management were introduced in several states to help control the growth in
future flood damage. More recently, the other states have adopted floodplain management policies
with an emphasis on non-structural measures.
Under the Australian constitution, the federal government can grant financial assistance to the states
for flood mitigation works and for flood studies. Around the mid 1970s floodplain management
activities eligible for federal government assistance were broadened to include acquisition of
properties and the clearance of floodways. In addition, the federal government required that suitable
land-use planning controls and building regulations be adopted to prevent an increase in the number
of flood-prone properties, and that comprehensive catchment plans be prepared.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the importance of flood emergency management was brought into
sharp focus by the occurrence of devastating floods. Flood emergency measures, such as flood
warning, evacuation and recovery plans, which are aimed at reducing the flood hazard by better
educating the population at risk to respond to the actual flood event, were implemented.
The designated flood event was generally accepted as the one-percent annual excess probability flood,
or alternatively, a flood which treated floodplain development proposals on merit was used for
planning and design purposes. However, floodplain managers recognised the need to consider the
consequences of floods greater than the designated event, including the probable maximum flood
(PMF), and instituted appropriate planning and response measures.
The state and federal government programmes explicitly excluded stormwater drainage design and
stormwater flooding, which remained solely the responsibility of local governments. The inconsis-
tency of treating stormwater flooding independently from the general floodplain management
considerations became apparent for several reasons. Firstly, stormwater and mainstream flooding are
merely examples of the same effect at different locations in the catchment. Secondly, stormwater and
mainstream flooding behaviour can interact and exacerbate the problem. Finally, it is of little
consequence to flooded residents whether floodwaters that damage their property originate from an
overloaded stormwater drain or from a river overflowing its banks. For these reasons, most states
amended their floodplain management policy to include flooding resulting from urban drainage
systems, as well as mainstream flooding.
In recent times, emphasis has been placed on an all-embracing planning approach to floodplain
management. This proactive approach incorporates the concepts of resource management and
sustainable development as well as flooding considerations on a total catchment basis. This modern
approach to floodplain management, termed “integrated floodplain management”, recognises that
there are three distinct problems associated with development on flood-prone land. These are:
the existing problem, which relates to current development;
the future problem, which relates to development yet to occur; and
the residual problem, which relates to the occurrence of floods which exceed existing
Integrated floodplain management considers the above issues and takes into account flood behaviour,
flood risk and flood hazard, together with all other relevant planning factors. This approach
recognises the impact of future urbanisation on flood behaviour, the interaction between mainstream
and stormwater flooding, and the cumulative impact of progressive development over time. It
considers flooding from a catchment-wide perspective and takes into account both upstream and
downstream implications of proposed future land-use developments and floodplain management
activities. Substantial benefits can accrue to local government by the adoption of this approach,
especially when more than one council is involved in the management of the catchment.
Community participation is encouraged under this system with representatives of the public,
particularly owners of flood-liable land, being actively involved in the preparation and review of
floodplain management plans. As a general procedure, such plans are exhibited and public comment is
sought and taken into account before the plan is finalized and adopted.
4. NEW SOUTH WALES FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT SYSTEM
It is considered that floodplain management in Australia, especially the system adopted by the state of
New South Wales, is close to world best practice. The New South Wales system was upgraded in
January 2001 with the release of a revised floodplain management manual which supported and
expanded on the existing New South Wales government’s Flood Prone Land Policy.
The main aim of the revised policy provides for the development of a sustainable strategy for
managing human occupation and use of the floodplain within a risk management hierarchy that covers
avoidance, minimization and, finally, mitigation works. It also encourages the application of
appropriate principles to treat the management of floodplains in a strategic manner. Emphasis is
placed on the importance of developing floodplain management plans that address existing, future and
continuing flood risk for flood-prone land on a whole floodplain approach, rather than an ad hoc or
The manual aims to foster the wise, rational and sustainable use of flood prone land by:
reducing the social and financial costs resulting from the risks of occupying the floodplain;
increasing the sustainable social, economic and ecological benefits of using the floodplain;
improving or maintaining the diversity and wellbeing of native riverine and floodplain
ecosystems which depend on regular flood inundation.
In other words, solutions to flood management problems should be assessed in a broad natural
resource management context and should be designed, where practical and feasible, to produce
positive ecological outcomes.
Primary responsibilities for the achievement of effective floodplain management outcomes rests with
local governments to develop and implement floodplain management plans using financial and
technical assistance provided by the state government. The Commonwealth government also provides
financial assistance through the state government.
The floodplain management process involves a number of discrete tasks including:
Floodplain Risk Management Committee
This committee is established by the local council to assist it in the development and
implementation of floodplain risk management plans for its area. This committee includes
community groups and state agency specialists.
Data collection involves the compilation of existing data and collection of additional data.
This study defines the nature and extent of the flood problem, in technical rather than in map
Floodplain risk management study
This study determines the options in consideration of social, economic and ecological factors
relating to flood risk.
Floodplain risk management plan
This plan presents the preferred options which are publicly exhibited and subject to revision
in the light of responses. It is formally approved by council after public exhibition and any
necessary revisions due to public comments.
Implementation of the plan
Flood, response and property modification measures including mitigation works, planning
controls, flood warning, flood readiness and response plans, environmental rehabilitation and
ongoing data collection and monitoring form the basis of this plan.
More recently there has been an increase in general public awareness and concern for the fundamental
importance of floodplains in supporting native flora and fauna and essential ecological processes.
Together with the recognition of this concern and the effect of management decisions on floodplain
communities, an increasing emphasis is being placed on community participation as an essential
component of the New South Wales policy and management system. The extent of public
participation in the floodplain management process is outlined in the following sections.
4.1 Legal arrangements
The Australian constitution allocates the primary responsibility for the management of land and water
resources and the environment to the state governments. In most states, the responsibility for different
aspects of floodplain management is fragmented across a number of pieces of legislation which are
implemented by a variety of agencies. The scattering of responsibilities across different pieces of
legislation can create substantial impediments to better floodplain management, not the least being
difficulties in achieving an “integrated floodplain management approach”.
In the state of New South Wales, there is a plethora of such legislation; more than 40 separate acts
relate to water resource management alone. At the same time, there is no single act which relates
specifically to floodplain management or flood mitigation on a state-wide scale. There are, however,
several important and potentially powerful pieces of legislation which may be applied for floodplain
management purposes. A brief description of the more important of these acts is given in the
4.11 Water Management Act, 2000
Under the Water Supply Authorities Act, an authority may be established by proclamation. This
proclamation states the name of the authority, its area of responsibility and the structure and
constitution of its management board. In addition to separately constituted special-purpose authorities,
an existing statutory body, such as a local government council, may be constituted under the act. The
principal reason for the establishment of flood mitigation or catchment management authorities under
this act is to ensure much more effective local government involvement in the integrated catchment
management process than is provided in other existing legislation. However, the act has the
disadvantage that it makes no formal declaration of floodplain management plans and schemes, for
the mandatory application of such schemes, or for actions against persons or organizations refusing to
conform to such plans or schemes.
4.12 Catchment Management Act, 1989
The purpose of this act is to provide an organizational structure for the implementation of the
government’s integrated catchment management policy, which is known as the Total Catchment
Management Policy. It seeks to encourage the application of integrated management principles to the
management of land, water, vegetation and other natural resources of the state’s catchments. It is not
therefore specifically concerned with flood mitigation as such, although this could be one of the
aspects to be taken into account in a specific overall catchment management situation.
The act provides for the establishment of committees and trusts to achieve its objectives. More
recently, many of these committees have been abolished and replaced by boards with similar powers
to the committees they replace.
The committee’s primary function is to promote and coordinate the implementation of catchment
management policies and programmes. They have very limited powers and are subject to severe
limitations on their activities. While they are encouraged to prepare catchment management plans,
there is no provision whatsoever for the formal or mandatory implementation of these plans.
The other kind of catchment-based organization for which the act provides, the catchment
management trusts, offer much more promise for effective implementation of management policies
and programmes. These trusts are able to raise revenue, employ staff, own facilities and enter into
4.13 Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979
This legislation provides for the preparation of regional environmental plans and local environmental
Regional environmental plans are prepared by the Planning Authority and are subject to review by
relevant state agencies, local government councils and other interest groups. These plans may be
prepared for any region of the state and are used to spell out planning provisions for such activities as
housing, rural development, transport and infrastructure. Although these plans could be used as a
means of controlling floodplain development, they have not been used for this purpose.
Local environmental plans are prepared by local government councils for part or all of the area under
their control. The preparation of the plan must be preceded by an appropriate environmental study.
Draft plans must be prepared in consultation with relevant government agencies and other bodies and
made available for public display and comment before being formally promulgated. Such draft plans
generally cover urban or rural area zoning, planning controls, building controls and development
controls, along with development standards related to specific types of development. The revised
policy envisages that these draft plans will be adopted and incorporated into local environment plans.
4.14 Local Government Act, 1993
This legislation makes it mandatory for all councils to prepare local environmental plans. It also
places a very heavy emphasis on the role of councils in environmental management, requiring them to
have regard for the protection of the environment, and the proper management and conservation of the
environment under their control, and to prepare regular reports relating to the state of the
environment. A particular feature of this legislation relating to flood mitigation is the provision for the
preparation of orders which provides councils with a mechanism for the control of floodplain
development. This legislation is not widely used because it involves councils in significant
expenditure for the preparation and implementation of floodplain management and mitigation
4.15 Water Act, 1912 (now repealed by the Water Management Act, 2000)
This act is concerned with the control of works on river banks and floodplains which have been
designated as floodplain areas. These works, known as “controlled works”, include earthworks,
embankments and levees. Any person wishing to construct such works must apply to do so and the
application may be refused if the work is likely to affect the distribution of flood flows in the vicinity.
This legislation is mainly used to control floodplain development schemes in rural areas.
4.16 Soil Conservation Act, 1938
This act is primarily concerned with the management of soil conservation. Under the act landholders
may be directed to undertake works or measures aimed at controlling soil erosion. It also provides for
the preparation of schemes or projects, which might include soil conservation, surface drainage or
sub-catchment management schemes, and also provides for the making of financial grants to assist in
the implementation of such schemes. Although these provisions might be used for such purposes as
integrated catchment management or stormwater drainage control, they have not been used in this
In general, the New South Wales government has been reluctant to use these pieces of legislation to
enforce flood mitigation planning schemes or zoning plans, or to control inappropriate floodplain
development. Instead, it has relied upon statements of government policy and management guidelines,
expecting for the most part that these will be implemented by local councils.
5. PUBLIC PARTICIPATION
Although flooding is one of the most manageable of all natural disasters, the implementation of a
floodplain management strategy will not stop flooding. Flooding will continue to occur unless the area
is protected against the maximum probable flood. As it is neither feasible nor economically justifiable
to adopt the maximum probable flood as the basis for flood mitigation planning, a lesser flood level is
selected to set planning controls and protection levels. This flood is known as the “designated flood
level”, more recently referred to as the “flood planning level”. Floods above that level constitute a
residual flood risk.
It is therefore necessary to ensure that the floodplain community understands the consequences of
flooding above the flood planning level and takes effective action to minimize damage and loss of
production and prevent loss of life when a flood of greater magnitude occurs.
It is considered that flood-prone communities have a basic responsibility to manage the residual flood
Residual flood risk can be best addressed through flood emergency plans. If these plans are to be
successful, it is essential that the population at risk knows what to do and how to do it effectively
when flood warnings are issued. Local agencies and emergency services agencies have an important
role to play in raising flood awareness through public awareness campaigns.
In areas where structural flood mitigation works have been built, individuals should be aware that, in
general, the works do not eliminate flood hazard, and that danger and problems can arise when floods
greater than the defined flood event occur. When levees are overtopped, water levels within the
protected area can rise quickly and evacuation routes may be cut, creating hazardous conditions.
All of these issues should be addressed in a flood management plan for the area. This plan embodies
the community’s considered opinions and balanced compromises regarding how best to manage
floodplains on an objective, sustainable and equitable basis for the benefit of the floodplain
community. As part of these plans, flood prone individuals should be made aware of the flood risk to
which they are exposed, the functioning of the flood warning and evacuation systems and the
appropriate actions to be taken when flood warnings are issued. This information should be freely
available from the responsible local agency. The community, both flood-prone and flood-free
individuals, should be encouraged to inform themselves on flooding matters. Flood prone individuals
have an additional responsibility to both inform themselves and keep up to date with appropriate
action to take in the event of a flood.
In addition, local communities are placing more emphasis on protecting and enjoying the
environmental services provided by the floodplain resources, such as biodiversity, open space and
amenity. In many areas, sustainable management of floodplains adds value to properties and so
increases the economic wealth of the local community. These increased expectations from the
community also place additional pressure on the natural resources of floodplains. Urban development,
infrastructure expansion, extractive industries and rural intensification all place pressures on
floodplains, which require sophisticated and integrated management.
To achieve the appropriate level of floodplain management, the overall strategy requires the support
of the community and, in order to gain that support, the community needs to be involved in the
management process. Ideally, the community should be involved from the identification of problems
phase, through the information gathering and analysis phases, to the development and implementation
of the long-term management strategy.
Those aspects of floodplain management that need the direct involvement and cooperation of the
floodplain community are:
identification of the flood problem;
formulation and analysis of alternative potential flood mitigation strategies;
implementation of the long-term management strategy; and
flood awareness and response.
6. COMMUNITY CONSULTATION
Flood assessment and floodplain management need to bring together a wide range of expertise and
knowledge. Practical managers, technical experts and lay people all need to be involved if solutions
acceptable to the community are to be developed. Public consultation programmes, however, must be
more than public relation exercises designed to tell people about the “best” solution developed by a
group of single-discipline experts. Increasingly, a broadly educated and concerned public is
demanding a meaningful role in floodplain management decision-making.
Effective community consultation is vital to gaining community acceptance of the findings of the
floodplain management study and subsequent development of flood mitigation strategies.
In particular, effective community consultation requires consideration of the following aspects:
informing the community of the need to undertake a floodplain management study and its
assessing the community’s level of concern, knowledge and understanding in relation to
flood issues and flood readiness;
obtaining any information members of the community may have in relation to historic
flood levels, behaviour and responses;
assessing community aspirations in relation to flood problems;
providing the community with information on alternative floodplain management
measures, including their inherent advantages and disadvantages; and
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providing a mechanism for the community to have an input into the selection of the most
appropriate management measures.
An appropriate methodology to achieve these objectives should be developed for the specific study
area, community and locality.
In addition, a number of floodplain management measures, especially response modification
measures, rely on community involvement to be effective. For example, flood warning, flood aware-
ness and flood response.
It should be noted that effective community consultation is a basic principle of good floodplain
7. FLOODPLAIN MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE
When a flood mitigation programme is being developed for a flood-affected locality, the first step in
the floodplain management process is the formation of a floodplain management committee. The
committee is formed and chaired by the flood authority in rural areas and by the local council(s) in
urban areas. Because the responsibility for planning matters lies with the flood authority or the
council, the committee should report directly to the responsible authority.
Broad community involvement in the flood management planning process, from the very beginning,
should produce the best prospect for community acceptance of and commitment to the resulting
The main objective of the management committee is to assist the flood authority in the development
and implementation of the floodplain management plan for the area under its jurisdiction. The
committee is both the focus of, and the forum for, the discussion of technical, social, economic and
ecological issues for the distillation of possibly differing viewpoints on these issues.
Membership of the management committee should consist of a balanced mix of elected (if
appropriate), administrative and community representatives, together with technical experts actively
involved in the preparation of the management plan.
Community participation in committee deliberations is seen as an essential input to the success of the
floodplain management process.
Community representatives should include people from affected residential and business areas,
together with people who can effectively inform the affected community of the deliberations of the
committee and so foster a wider understanding of the floodplain management process.
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Community representatives play an important role in the success of the committee and every attempt
should be made to have representatives who have an established appreciation of the flooding problem.
In certain circumstances it may be necessary to establish a committee involving a number of adjoining
administrative areas. The cooperative approach will take into consideration the fact that local
administrative boundaries rarely follow catchment boundaries.
The management committee acts as both a focus and a forum for the discussion of technical, social,
economic, ecological and cultural issues relating to the development of a flood risk management plan.
These issues include:
flooding behaviour, including the risk, danger to personal safety and property damage
imposed on existing land uses (the “existing” risk);
the impact of flooding on potential future land uses and occupants and the impact of these
future land uses on flooding (the “future” risk);
continuing flood risk and methods of management (the “continuing” risk);
the ecological impact of existing and possible future developments and floodplain risk
broad-scale catchment issues such as water quality, riverine and floodplain enhancement
and land management;
environmental impact both upstream and downstream as a result of changes in hydrology
and other factors;
potential economic costs and benefits to both private and public sectors in the occupation
of the floodplain;
the potential economic benefits of proposed risk management measures;
potential intangible flood costs, including physical and psychological effects of flooding;
social factors, including the needs and aspirations of the local community, both existing
and in the future;
local and regional planning options and restrictions, including special zoning and planning
controls, and opportunities; and
the protection of heritage sites.
The expertise necessary to address these issues needs to be drawn from a variety of sources,
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the local council
the local community
key industry groups
the relevant catchment management boards
state and Commonwealth government agencies and
8. COMMUNITY SURVEYS
The collection and collation of flood data from significant flood events using public participation can
often provide a very useful database for the flood authority to use as input into flood studies. In fact,
community surveys of historical flood records and behaviour are an integral part of flood studies. All
flood studies rely upon recorded information from previous flood events. This information is used in
the calibration and verification of flood models, as well as assisting in gaining a general
understanding of the flood behaviour of the catchment. It also plays an introductory role in the
consultation phase of the subsequent floodplain management study.
The primary source of this information is the local community. Consulting with them in an effective
and appropriate manner is, therefore, an essential part of any flood study.
The information collected during actual flood events by members of the community relates to flood
severity, as measured in terms of flood heights, the areas of rural lands inundated and the urban areas
and facilities affected by the encroachment of floodwaters.
9. FLOOD AWARENESS AND RESPONSE
It is a fundamental principle of emergency management that communities that understand the hazards
they face and know how to prepare for and react to them will have a better chance of mitigating the
effects of flood disasters than those that do not. Some communities or parts of them may develop the
appropriate expertise by experience, that is, by learning from their exposure to threats how to develop
a strategy to cope with them. Farmers, for example, are used to handling floods. The frequency of
inundation of rural land near watercourses, combined with losses which will ensue if stock and
equipment are not moved before floodwaters arrive, give farmers the expertise generated by learning
from exposure to the flood hazard. Under normal circumstances however, the level of flood
experience among the floodplain population will be low, especially in developing urban areas.
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In existing flood-affected areas, floodplain management measures should be undertaken to reduce the
flood risk, wherever ecologically and economically viable. However, in some areas, it will not be
possible to undertake such works. In such areas it is important that individuals recognise the extent of
flood risk and be aware of evacuation routes and procedures in the event of major flooding.
In areas where flood or property modification measures are undertaken, individuals should be made
aware that these measures do not entirely eliminate flood risk, and that problems can arise when
floods greater than the flood used to derive the design flood level and used to design these measures
occur. This aspect is of particular importance where flood and property modification measures do not
exclude very large floods and where floodways can develop, levees can be overtopped, water levels
can rise quickly, or evacuation routes can be cut.
All of the issues should be addressed in the local flood plan for the area. In New South Wales, the
term “flood plan” is used by the State Emergency Services (SES) to outline how they will respond to
future floods, whilst “floodplain management plan” is used by councils for the overall plan for dealing
with floods. The latter takes account of emergency planning in the SES flood plans. As part of these
plans, flood-affected individuals should be made aware of the flood threat, the existing flood warning
and evacuation systems, and the appropriate action to be taken when flood warnings are issued. This
information should be freely available from the flood authority and the emergency management
authority. The general community, including flood-prone and flood-free individuals, should inform
themselves about flooding matters in their area and keep up to date with appropriate action to take in
the event of a flood.
The residual flood risk can best be addressed through flood emergency plans. Ideally the agency
which has the responsibility for the preparation of flood emergency plans should also be responsible
for the collection and compilation of flood intelligence and for the coordination of response activities.
Having such broad responsibilities encourages the agency to develop expertise in the management of
flood events. Other agencies will also be involved in flood emergency planning, but the lead agency
should have the coordinating role.
A typical flood emergency plan for an area would include detail on the following items:
the nature of the flood threat;
areas which could be affected by flooding;
sources of flood intelligence;
roles and responsibilities of the involved agencies before, during and after flood events;
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trigger conditions for plan activation; and
liaison and communication arrangements.
The plan should also include arrangements for public education, warning, the passage of information
to flood-affected communities, road control, sandbagging, evacuation, resupply, rescue, the registra-
tion and welfare of evacuees, initial recovery and post-flood debriefing. In addition, the plan should
be subject to periodic review in consultation with the local floodplain community.
As local flood plans contain a wealth of information, which can be used to educate people about an
area’s flood threat, they should be placed on public display and made widely available within the
10. COMMUNITY EDUCATION AND INVOLVEMENT
It is essential that floodplain management plans make specific allowance for regular education
programmes designed to promote community awareness of, and preparedness for, the risks associated
with flooding. A wide range of educational measures are available and these measures need to be
assessed for suitability as part of a management plan.
Flood education provides information on the likely effects of flooding and knowledge of the relevant
flood warning, response and evacuation procedures. It raises awareness of the flood problem and
enables individuals to understand how to manage themselves and their property in response to flood
warnings and in a flood event. It also invokes a state of flood readiness and allows the community to
react within the effective warning time.
It is important to ensure that the catchment community is made aware of floodplain management
activities to mitigate the flood hazard and local environmental issues aimed at improving natural
resources. This can be achieved through a variety of measures, including print material, community
meetings, a website (if available), displays at community fairs and supporting programmes which
involve environmental activities undertaken by schoolchildren.
The publication of regular newsletters, which provide updates of floodplain management activities
and distributed to individual residents in the catchment, is an effective means of keeping the
community informed. These newsletters should be published on a regular basis.
A website can be a simple and cost-effective tool to provide information on floodplain management
projects and catchment facts. This information can be targeted towards the different user groups,
including residents, agencies, students, farmers and other interested persons. The website can display
a range of information relating to a geographic information system. This allows any interested person
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with access to the Internet to create and download maps of the catchment with a variety of
information, including the extent of flood inundation, evacuation routes, vegetation types, sub-
catchment boundaries and cadastral information.
10.2 Community events
The sponsorship and involvement in community events helps to promote floodplain management
activities, such as mitigation projects and environmental issues. The inclusion of information stalls at
local community fairs is an important way to access the local community and discuss local issues of
concern. It has proved to be an effective strategy in disseminating information to the flood-affected
sector of the community.
10.3 School programmes
Education involves showing the community how human activity can impact on both water quantity
and quality in waterways and what can be done to control and improve the existing situation.
Educating schoolchildren about the flood hazard and the environment is important because they are
the decision makers of the future. This can be achieved by conducting catchment tours that are
designed to teach students about flood mitigation, water quality and vegetation management issues.
10.4 Radio and television
Radio and television campaigns are employed to raise public awareness of flooding as a community
service. These campaigns broadcast messages which provide advice on how people can protect
themselves and their belongings from flooding.
10.5 Brochures and action guides
Dissemination of pamphlets, brochures and action guides relating to the flood threat are distributed to
10.6 Flood action cards
In flood-prone areas, flood action cards are presented and explained to those at risk. They are used for
education purposes during the non-flood season and detail action to be taken during a flood event and
include handy hints on evacuation procedures.
10.7 Commemoration of well-remembered floods
Reminding communities of past floods constitutes a useful platform for indicating that the flood threat
still poses severe risks and that appropriate behaviour can maximize personal and household safety
and reduce damage. This information can be published as inserts to local newspapers. These inserts
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provide historical information, details of flood inundation maps, information to allow the community
to interpret flood warnings and tips on how to prepare for flooding.
Flood mitigation is principally the responsibility of state and local governments, with the national
government providing a coordinating function and a source of funding for flood mitigation works. In
recent years, there has been a trend for flood mitigation in Australia to be undertaken as part of an
integrated catchment management process, where catchment coordination is provided by catchment-
based management organizations, including trusts.
It is clear from the foregoing discussion that to achieve effective integrated floodplain management
the full support of the catchment community is required. This support can only achieved by the
involvement and participation of the local community in the floodplain management process, from the
initial planning phase right up to the implementation phase.
Community education, community involvement and acceptance of community ownership and
responsibility for flooding problems are prerequisites for the satisfactory solution for such problems.
In this regard, the need for community participation cannot be overemphasised.
Floodplain Management Working Group, Agriculture and Resource Management Council of
Australia and New Zealand and Emergency Management Australia (1998): “Best Practice
Guidelines for Floodplain Management in Australia”, draft report, Canberra
New South Wales Government (January 2001): Floodplain Management Manual: the management
of flood-liable land. Sydney, Australia
United Nations Economic & Social Commission for Asia & the Pacific (1999): “Regional
Cooperation in the Twenty-First Century on Flood Control and Management in Asia and the Pacific –
The Upper Parramatta River Catchment Trust, A Case Study”, pp 112-162. New York
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