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Planning for Bushfire on the Peri-urban fringe

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Guiding question for the case study:

What is the usefulness of applying theories of adaptive management and resilience to strategic approaches to land use planning and environmental management in bushfire-prone areas of those peri-urban fringes where bushfire risks are predicted to increase as a result of changes in climate?

Effective bushfire planning and management requires bringing together multiple disciplines, agencies, perspectives, values and stakeholders. The recent Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission has illuminated that this is a contested ground of operations with no clear cut solutions in protecting communities and natural assets. Communities of the future are expected to live with a greater risk of fire - with greater frequency of events and fire intensity. This is a result of predicted climate change as well as an increasing demographic trend towards living on the urban / bushland fringe.

There is a call for environmental planners and managers to bring more integrative and adaptive management solutions in working with other agencies and the community. The focus is now moving to a recognition of the importance of building community and ecological resilience. But what does this mean and what can it look like?

VIDEO: Mike Brown_Intro_320x180.mp4

Mike Brown, Chief Officer, Tasmania Fire Service


Aim: to develop a bushfire planning or management strategy to build social-ecological resilience of a peri-urban area which is prone to bushfire

The Brief: Mike Brown, Chief Officer of the Tasmania Fire Service wishes to commission your team to develop a strategy for Mt Nelson, a suburb on the peri-urban fringe of Hobart which is prone to bushfire. He explains in this video.

Mt Nelson is fairly typical of peri-urban areas in other states of Australia such as the Dandenongs in Melbourne, the North-Western suburbs of Sydney, and developed areas of the Blue Mountains.


What your team specifically has to do


  • Review and critical analysis - Review the existing management and planning strategies for the Mt Nelson area. (See the Case Study pages .) We want to know in terms of building community and ecosystem resilience to bushfires whether these “strategies” are truly strategic. What in particular is strategic about them, what outcomes are they intended to deliver and how likely is it that these outcomes will be delivered? Your analysis needs to take into account scenarios for the future including the likely increase in the incidence of bushfires. 
  • Key criteria - From this review we would like you to develop key criteria for others to use in assessing strategic plans of other communities.
  • Gap analysis - We would like you to determine what is missing from the strategies. You need to seek out the missing aspects and let us know what studies we might need to commission to get suitable information where there are gaps. We already have done an “environmental scope” which you can use as your starting point.
  • Create a framework for a planning or management strategy - Scope out a detailed framework for a planning or management strategy that has the the aim of building resilience of the social-ecological system of the area of Mt Nelson and its surrounds.We would like you to be clear how you might be value-adding existing strategies through your strategy which is informed by adaptive management and resilience approaches, as well as taking into account the latest bushfire expertise and review – eg from the Bushfire CRC and the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission.
  • Presentation: Framework for a management or planning strategy, which is presented on the WIKI page for your group.

 What we mean by socio-ecological resilience

Resilience … is defined as the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks (Walker et al. 2004)

Folke et al. (2005, 442-3) also describe resilience as  “the extent to which a system can absorb recurrent natural and human perturbations and continue to regenerate without slowly degrading or even unexpectedly flipping into undesirable states”.

What can help you in this task?

1. Julie's guide  - this helps you manage the task, gives tips on how to manage the group work using your team WIKI pages, provides the assessment criteria, reflection questions, info on how to navigate the site, and a site-map

2. Course theory in Adaptive management and resilience - see Mylo pages (only available if you have enrolled in the course)

3. The Case Study - Mt Nelson.

We have provided an initial environmental scope of Mt Nelson showing the key agencies, stakeholders or aspects which need to be considered. These link to further pages with interviews with stakeholders on audio or video, powerpoint presentations with voice over or links to relevant documentation, websites or research.  We include a google map of the area with links to key assets. 

4. Resources - building understanding of bushfire

  • Bushfire Knowledge Perspectives  - there are key knowledge perspectives which can be used as interrogatory lenses for the Case Study - fire behaviour, fire ecology, fire management, community, policy, planning, fire operations and climate change. We provide some summaries of these perspectives with links to research and researchers. However, these are in contested areas and need to be treated critically. 
  • Key change drivers relating to bushfire -  we give you some projected scenarios for 2020.
  • The Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission - this brings together key bushfire researchers, planners and land managers to explore critical questions. We provide some summaries of sessions on prescribed burning, risk assessment and planning with links to the original transcripts. These are a valuable resource in honing in on the leading edge issues. 
  • Recommended sites on bushfire research are the Bushfire CRC and the Australasian Fire Services Knowledge Web .

5. FORUM  - during the course of this module a number of local people from different agencies will be on-line and available to respond to questions or discussions on this WIKI's FORUM. You can also use the forum to create discussions

6. Student Pages  - a page has been set up for each group using tables to help you work through the task. You are assessed on what you put on this page. You can add further pages if you need to.

Acknowledgement and disclaimer

This resource has been developed with the support of the Bushfire CRC, the Tasmania Fire Service and the School of Geography and Environmental Studies, the University of Tasmania.Thank you to all those people who have generously contributed to the building of this resource and providing open reflections on the processes and issues of managing bushfire.This resource is a snapshot of people's thinking at one moment in time, which is likely to change as the recommendations of the Victorian Bushfire Royal Commission are implemented. The views represented here are not necessarily the views of the Bushfire CRC, nor the Tasmania Fire Service. The resource is designed as an educational resource aimed at presenting diverse views in order to encourage students to engage in complex thinking.

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