Metropolitan or central governments often develop policies for hazard and environmental management, but depend on local jurisdictions for implementation. The priorities and values of the different levels of government may not match, with the result that important policy initiatives may be ignored or cause conflict. This paper examines two approaches available to higher level governments for policy design and implementation: coercion and cooperation. The cooperative approach is characterised by negotiation and capacity building which takes account of local circumstances. Where local commitment to hazard management already exists, a cooperative approach leads to results equal or better than those achieved under coercion; and cooperative policies may be superior in maintaining local government commitment. Coercion appears to be more effective where local authorities view flooding as unimportant, but its use is often problematic. The paper draws on the results of an international research project which examined urban flood hazard management in jurisdictions with contrasting policy styles.