thurs 27 may 2021


Factoring in human behaviour and decision-making into natural hazard planning processes


The past ten years have proven highly active from a disaster perspective across Australia, from widespread riverine and flash flooding, to catastrophic bushfire events. We are in a time where we are now witnessing a changing climate, which is interfacing with other mega-trends to impact on the exposure of our communities. As a result, the risk profiles of our landscapes are changing, and our vulnerability as a society is increasing.


The consideration of natural hazard risk has for many years been a fundamental element of land use planning process across policy, strategic and statutory efforts. This has to date, largely remained a spatial exercise, with a focus on land use allocation in locations exposed to natural hazard risk. Whilst planning for safe and resilient places and spaces remains critical, planning for safe and resilient communities must also consider the factors of people and the dynamics of human decision-making when confronted with an emergency. This is essentially a consideration of what people tend to do, how emergency services operate, and how we plan for this.


In a climate that is changing, with more frequent and intense natural hazard events occurring, the role of land use planning now must stretch further beyond the contemplation of spatial outcomes. Planning processes now must look to factor in human behaviour and decision-making, as a key aspect of risk-based planning approaches.


The formulation of policy and application of development controls maintain a clear role however, how planning integrates current and innovative research into planning strategy is perhaps our most critical pathway. This presentation will provide key examples and case studies demonstrating the necessity of factoring in human behaviour into strategic natural hazard planning processes, and the outcomes these approaches have yielded. It will also provide a demonstrated understanding of how we can best integrate cutting-edge research into strategic risk-based land use planning processes and decision-making.

Laura Gannon MPIA

Meridian Urban

Laura is a leading Australian risk-based land use planning and community resilience specialist with 15 years of diversified industry experience across the public and private sectors. Laura specialises in the integration of natural hazard risk management into policy and strategy, with a particular emphasis on bushfire risk and resilience and floodplain risk management. Laura’s approach seeks to ‘think differently’ in reconciling the often complex challenges associated with integrating land use planning, governance, emergency management and disaster risk mitigation processes.