Network governance and climate change adaptation: collaborative responses to the Queensland floods



This research examines ways to build adaptive capacity to climate change, through a case study of organisations that participated in the response to Queensland’s major flood disaster in Queensland in 2010/11. The research applied a network governance approach, including social network analysis and qualitative investigations, to the communities of Rockhampton, Emerald and Brisbane. The study was designed to compare social networks across a range of different geographical; functional; and institutional and regulatory contexts.

Primary data were obtained from organisations involved in disaster management and water management, through a telephone survey conducted March – September 2012. The network analyses examined collaboration and communication patterns; changes in the network structure from routine management to flood operations; similarities and differences between the geographic regions, and whether collaboration was correlated with trust. A cultural values analysis was then performed to identify the key values of the network actors in each region. Two workshops were conducted in Rockhampton and Brisbane to disseminate the findings to stakeholders, as well as to obtain feedback through group activities.

A total of 63 organisations participated in the study. As the network analyses and visualisations indicated that the Rockhampton and Emerald networks were tightly interconnected, a single ‘Central Queensland’ (CQ) network was used for all subsequent analyses. In both Brisbane and CQ, slightly higher levels of collaboration amongst organisations were recorded during flood periods compared with routine operations; and organisations tended to provide, as well as receive, information and/or resources from their collaborators. Overall, both networks appeared to feature high trust, with only a low level of difficult ties (problematic relationships) being reported.

The cultural analyses identified patterns of common values amongst participating organisations. In Brisbane, respondents placed a high value on shared information systems and resources; shared communication and language; as well as on collaboration and flexibility. In the CQ network, there was a greater emphasis on local solutions, community wellbeing and longitudinal issues (such as post-disaster supply chains for recovery). The workshop activities suggested that the current structure of Local Disaster Management Groups was heavily influential on broader network participation; and that defining an ‘effective’ disaster response was a complex issue.

This study has demonstrated that a network governance approach can provide new ways of understanding the core elements of adaptive capacity, in areas such as enablers and barriers to adaptation, and translating capacity into adaptation. The key implications for policy and practice include the need for stakeholders to drive adaptation to climate change through collaboration and communication; the need for stakeholders to share a common goal and language; the need for better engagement with community, diversity and Indigenous organisations; the need to establish collaboration outside of disaster events; and the need for network governance systems to play an important role in helping to facilitate climate change adaptation. The areas identified for future research included further methodological development and longitudinal studies of social networks, understanding effective modes of communication, and the influence of the changing nature of regional Australian communities on climate change adaptation.

Please cite this report as:
Kinnear, S, Patison, K, Mann, J, Malone, E & Ross, V 2013, Network governance and climate change adaptation: Collaborative responses to the Queensland floods, National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, Gold Coast, 100 pp.

Banner image copyright Rockhampton City Council



Detailed Descriptions
Geographic and Temporal Extents
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Attributions and Constraints
Susan Kinnear,Kym Patison,Julie Mann,Elisabeth Malone,Victoria Ross