Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (119.31 MB)

Floodplain Inhabitation: A Socio-Spatial Resilience Network

Download (119.31 MB)
posted on 2021-11-12, 19:40 authored by Boyle, Rebecca

The inadequacy of current approaches to managing floodplain inhabitation was highlighted in the 2010-11 Queensland, northern New South Wales and Victorian floods; the most costly floods in Australia’s history. Despite technological advancements and the prevalence of flood mitigation infrastructure, floods continue to have widespread adverse physical, social, economic, and emotional impacts. This situation is mirrored internationally and is anticipated to worsen as scientists predict an increase in the severity and prevalence of natural disasters such as flooding. In response to this, management of floodplain inhabitation must shift from flood prevention to adaptation. Adaptation is a key term in ecological resilience, defined as the capacity of a system to adapt and persist in the face of disturbance (Holling 1976). Hendstra et al (2004) suggests that in the context of disaster-resilient cities, resilience can be defined as the “capacity to adapt to stress from hazards and the ability to recover quickly from their impacts” (Henstra, Kovacs, McBean, & Sweeting, 2004, p. 5). Analysis of ecosystems reveals that interdependence across scales, variety, redundancy, adaptability and feedback are the key resilience principles enabling the system to adapt and maintain stability during flooding. At present there is a sparsity of literature exploring spatial resilience approaches to improving floodplain inhabitation. Whilst amphibious approaches improve individual resilience, there is a lack of innovative solutions to improve community and city resilience to flooding. Resilience approaches have the potential to reduce safety concerns, financial losses and the emotional stress associated with residing on Australian floodplains. Such approaches acknowledge the interconnected nature of riverine floodplains and their inhabitants. However resilience principles need to be given a physical spatial function within specific social contexts. Architecture provides a platform to test new and retrofit adaptable approaches to promote a more suitable spatial relationship with the river. This thesis will take the theory and literature of resilience and apply it to a site-specific spatial context: Maitland. Maitland city is built on one of the most flood prone regions in New South Wales (Keys, 1999). Despite the Hunter Valley Flood Mitigation Scheme, which consists of 170 kilometers of levees and flood control structures, flooding continues to occur in and around Maitland. Regardless of these flood risks, Maitland City Council is proposing large scale residential development on the floodplain to encourage population increase. Maitland will be used as the primary case study for investigating the opportunities socio-spatial resilience interventions have for improving the longterm inhabitation of the floodplain. This thesis proposes a multi-scaled approach to examine flood hazard and exposure at the individual, community, city and regional scale. As spatial designers it is imperative that architects play a part in this explorative process


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Allan, Penny