Public participation: its role in the management of the Waimakariri floodplain
Despite increasing investment in flood protection works over time in New Zealand the costs of flood damage have continued to rise. Research into this phenomenon resulted in the National Water and Soil Conservation Authority's (NWASCA) 'Urban Flood Loss Reduction Policy' which was released in November 1984. Underlying the policy was the understanding that instead of solely 'keeping water away from people', as much attention should be paid to 'keeping people away from water'. There is a significant divergence between statistical perceptions of risk held by technical personnel and the popular perceptions held by non-expert floodplain occupants. Experts are interested in predicting the probability of a natural event occurring and providing protection from large infrequent events. In contrast, lay perception of flooding is more complex. A broad range of groups likely to be affected by floodplain management was identified. These include: i. those who live, work and/or own property (ratepayers) on the Waimakariri floodplain, ii. those who do not live, work or own property on the floodplain but rely on Christchurch as a service centre, iii. recreational, iv. environmental, v. Maori cultural and spiritual, vi. future generations. A model of the floodplain management decision-making process was used to determine where opportunities for participation might exist. Components of this process were: i. Awareness or conviction that a problem exists, that is, floodplain occupants need to cross a flood hazard perception threshold before they can respond to planning initiatives. ii. A search for adjustment options to address the flood problem (for example, stopbanks, flood hazard maps, flood proofing). iii. The choosing of decision criteria upon which adjustment options are considered. A number of participatory techniques were examined, including surveys, a Floodplain Management Liaison Group, a community advisory. A hiatus in risk perception exists between technical experts and lay floodplain occupants. A one-way flow of information is not sufficient to overcome this divergence. Public perceptions of risk must be incorporated into the Waimakariri Floodplain Management Plan before the Urban Flood Loss Reduction Policy can be successfully implemented. Support for flood protection works relies on the public's perception of risk and their willingness-to-pay for protection from that risk. i. The establishment of a community advisory committee would provide a satisfactory vehicle for enabling a wide range of community perceptions of risk to be incorporated into the decision-making process. Such a committee could have representation on a Floodplain Management Liaison Group. ii. The problem definition should be reconsidered with the public's perception of risk incorporated. The public would need to cross the threshold of risk perception before this could take place satisfactorily. Floodplain occupants may still be constrained by other factors from responding in a rational manner to floodplain planning policies. These factors can be demographic, economic, political, social, geographic or historical.... [Show full abstract]
Keywordsenvironmental engineering; floodplain management; emergency management; hazard management; decision making process; risk management; flood plain
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