This paper explores the process of human social adaptation in response to tropical cyclone risk in Darwin, Australia. Its particular focus is on the period leading up to Cyclone Tracy, which made landfall in Darwin on 24 December 1974, and the thirty years of learning, adapting and maladapting since. The paper focuses on social level responses to wind damage risk and storm surge risk, with particular emphasis on building codes and land use planning as adaptive responses to those risks. A separate paper from the same study tackles the problem of individual level perception and adaptation; see Li (2008). This paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of these findings for Darwin specifically and for the policy making process more generally.