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Exposing hidden-value trade-offs: sharing wildfire management responsibility between government and citizens

Blythe McLennan A and Michael Eburn B C

A Centre for Risk and Community Safety, School of Mathematical & Geospatial Sciences, RMIT University, GPO Box 2476, Melbourne, VIC 3001, Australia.
B ANU College of Law, Building 5, Fellows Road, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.
C Corresponding author. Email: michael.eburn@anu.edu.au

International Journal of Wildland Fire - http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/WF12201
Submitted: 29 November 2012  Accepted: 4 February 2014   Published online: 29 May 2014


 
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Abstract

Developing resilient communities and sharing responsibility for hazard management is the key to Australia’s ‘National Strategy for Disaster Resilience’. There are, however, a wide range of conflicting views on the appropriate responsibilities of governments, citizens and communities that are not well recognised in the national policy discourse. What the ideas of resilient communities and shared responsibility mean for wildfire management and how these ideas might shape wildfire safety thinking and practice is therefore unclear and contested. This paper makes explicit some of the necessary, but often hidden, trade-offs between competing values that are implicit in assessments of where responsibility for wildfire management lies, and how it should be shared. After describing different ways in which responsibility is attributed and legitimated through legal and governance systems, this paper compares and contrasts potential legal and governance implications of four hypothetical scenarios for wildfire management, each of which portrays a contrasting set of extreme value trade-offs. The underlying purpose of the exercise is to encourage stakeholders to draw on the frameworks to explicitly acknowledge and debate the value trade-offs that are necessary, but most often unacknowledged, in more moderate decision-making about how to share responsibility for risk management between governments and citizens.

Additional keywords: governance, law, resilience, risk management, values.


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