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Type: Thesis
Title: Perceptions of Bushfire Risk and Planning in Peri-Urban Adelaide, Australia and Locarno, Switzerland
Author: Bardsley, Annette
Issue Date: 2018
School/Discipline: School of Social Sciences : Geography, Environment and Population
Abstract: Peri-urban areas are dynamic spaces. In both South Australia and Ticino, Switzerland, peri-urban areas are often associated with high amenity and biodiversity values, but are also characterised by substantial risks of environmental hazards such as bushfires. As cities such as Adelaide and Locarno expand, conflicts of interest arise along with the transition of rural and natural areas to urban land uses. South Australia is implementing new planning legislation that aims, in part, to better manage those conflicts by becoming more inclusive of community opinion, while Switzerland has a highly developed deliberative planning system that has attempted to incorporate citizen’s voices directly into the heart of land use planning decision. Together, those situations led to a very interesting analysis, where the experiences of Swiss planning could be used to contrast with South Australian experiences, and inform potential paths for planning to pursue in the future. Householder surveys were conducted in 2015 in the Mitcham and Onkaparinga Councils on the peri-urban fringe of Adelaide in South Australia, and adjacent to the city of Locarno in Ticino, Switzerland. Residents living in close proximity to important conservation areas in both places were asked to provide their perceptions of the risks of environmental hazards, place values and levels of satisfaction with vegetation management and land use planning. Key elements of the questionnaires enquired about residents’ involvement with current planning processes. The differences of opinions were analysed in relation to demographic and socio-economic information, as well as Australia’s representative and Switzerland’s deliberative political structures. The analysis established that the political structure influences residents’ sense of agency and their willingness to participate in planning decisions. A number of important results emerged. One significant finding was that residents living in high bushfire risk areas in close proximity to Sturt Gorge Recreation Park in South Australia were accepting of the risks associated with living in forested suburbs and were supportive of current levels of vegetation management, yet felt vulnerable to bushfire due to inadequate vehicle egress opportunities to evacuate before or during an emergency event. Results for both surveys suggest that respondents were very attached to their local area and the appreciation of the vegetation was high. Close to forty percent wished for more trees in the Adelaide Hills. Respondents were concerned about continued suburban development and the increasing numbers of people moving into their scenic, but bushfire-prone residential area. A large number of respondents from South Australia did not trust the authorities to manage the bushfire risk, in contrast to almost universal support in Switzerland. Younger respondents with families in South Australia were indicating that the level of bushfire risk was such that it was making them think of leaving the area. The Swiss deliberative approach to planning provides more opportunities for citizens’ voices to influence decision-making, but even then, it is not clear that surveyed Swiss community members felt that planning was responding effectively to their concerns. These findings from both places suggest that decisions directly affecting daily lives and residents’ vulnerability to environmental hazards require a deliberative process that allows for the expression of local voices in relation to both risk and value. Deliberative interactions between government planning authorities and the local community, aside from offering valuable local knowledge and specific insights into local issues to help guide authentic planning outcomes, also offer important opportunities for risk mitigation education in areas of increasing environmental risk. This conclusion is important just at a time when South Australia is reforming its planning system in the aim of striking a balance between the influence of specialist planners, developers, the community and elected representatives’ decision-making.
Advisor: Rudd, Dianne
Palazzo, Elisa
Dissertation Note: Thesis (Ph.D.) -- University of Adelaide, School of Social Sciences, 2018
Keywords: Bushfire
spatial planning
residential place values
collaborative engagement
deliberative democracy
cross-cultural analysis
South Australia
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