Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Civil, Mining and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences


There is a driving societal and legislative shift from citizens having limited tokenistic consultation on matters that affect them, towards directly influencing decision-making processes. Flood risk management is no exception. This research first explores both domestic and international flood risk management processes in a view to identify deficiencies in current practice. It is argued that public participation and evaluation requirements although mandated in many jurisdictions, are not adequately addressed in current processes. In response, a new flood risk management cycle bridging these deficiencies is presented as an alternative.

Secondly, this research presents a new engagement-focused decision support model, which in turn predicates the development of engagement decisions support systems as mechanisms to enhance and assist flood risk management processes and their outcomes. These systems as documented in the thesis combine heuristic, engineering and scientific knowledge with multi criteria, decision support and public participation theory through an online or standalone computer system, to empower the public (i.e everyone including the community, elected representatives, planners, engineers etc.) to derive informed preferred solutions and make collective considered decisions about complex engineering alternatives. Application of the model through an online engagement decision support system for flood risk management options was undertaken for three trial New South Wales catchments on the east coast of Australia to support and validate the thesis. It is argued that this model can be applied to all jurisdictions due to the flexibility in its framework, allowing organisational and/or legislative requirements to be achieved. It was shown that individuals utilising this model were able to overcome narrow uninformed preferences, selecting robust solutions that better reflect preference choices of learned flood managers.

Thirdly, it is argued the engagement-focused decision support model has broader application to other engineering and non-engineering fields that involve social, safety, economic, environmental, political, technological etc. tradeoffs. It is foreseen this model can lead to significant advancement in traditional decision making, as engagement decision support systems could provide a mechanism to enable a truly collaborative, transparent and inclusive participatory process that rightfully empowers the community to make informed decisions about engineering choices that affect them.