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This twelve-month study was commissioned by the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility (NCCARF) to examine the potential for Learning from Regional Climate Analogues through selected target communities in Australia. The underlying assumption is that communities reflect their prevailing climate in the way that they organise their infrastructure, built form and services, such as health and emergency response. Climate is also likely to dictate, to some extent, the policy content in development, infrastructure and health plans and the management of ecosystem services.

In Queensland, Gladstone was chosen as an analogue for Brisbane, and in Western Australia, Geraldton was the selected analogue for Bunbury. In South Australia, two communities, Port Pirie and Whyalla, were combined to provide the analogue for Adelaide. All pairings were based on the existing climate of the analogue being a reasonable match for the predicted climate in the target community in 2050. The fundamental aim was to develop a framework for analysis, and test this to determine whether a further, more detailed second stage of research (Part Two), would be likely to provide useful results.

The analysis firstly examined policy documents across a range of sectors, namely: land use planning, infrastructure, housing and building, health services and ecosystem services. It sought to identify all current policy vehicles and extract from these the main aspects which may be viewed as a response to various climatic factors. The factors were heat, drought, bushfire, high wind velocity, flooding and coastal issues, such as storm surge and rising sea levels. Interviews with a range of stakeholders from local government and state agencies were conducted between November 2010 and February 2011.

These added a useful extra layer of information about the main issues which the different analogue and target locations were facing, and their perceptions of the influence of climate on their policy decisions and working arrangements. This data was then analysed using a matrix-based approach to compare policy aspects with climate factors and identify whether potential for learning from analogues by targets existed. The matrix analysis identified a number of potential areas where analogues appeared to be responding differently to climatic factors from target communities.

A series of workshops with stakeholders in each state were then held in April and May 2011 to test the findings. Overall, the analysis suggests that the approach does not clearly demonstrate a large range of easily discernible differences and the potential learning for target communities from analogue practice. The analysis demonstrates that state-driven policy in areas such as land use planning and health tends to result in similar policy response, in both analogues and targets. In some instances, local policy makers are frustrated by this situation but have little power to change it. The status of policy, as reorganisation of government takes place and new plans are introduced, complicates the picture and interpretation of whether policy is more advanced in certain areas and was contested in the workshops. Nevertheless, some examples of differing practice and approaches to common problems were identified. These are highlighted in boxes in the report. These differences were prominent in standards applied to the construction of houses and buildings, floodplain management, coastal policy, certain infrastructure services and health programs. These latter differences may be a function of different perceptions of risk, access to resources or differing population demographics. Further research would be needed to clearly identify the reasons for different responses to similar issues.

The findings suggest that there are several potential opportunities for further research, which flow from and build upon the findings of this study. These opportunities particularly focus on governance and address questions about the relative benefits of top-down or bottom-up policy making.

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