Coastal adaptation to climate change

External people involved: 
Paula Blackett (AgResearch), Robin Britton (Robin Britton Resource Management/Planning Consultant), Jim Dahm (Economos), Peter Singleton (Waikato Regional Council), Peter Wishart (Thames Coromandel District Council)

 

NIWA is developing guidelines and advice to help coastal communities adapt to climate change. 

The issue

Our susceptibility to sea-level rise and climate extremes has increased dramatically over the last two decades. 

There are two primary reasons.  Firstly, our coasts have seen unprecedented development for holiday and permanent homes.  Secondly, tourism and associated facilities have also grown over the last two decades. 

Why do we need to adapt?

  • Coastal communities are vulnerable to coastal hazards.
  • Coastal hazard impacts will increase with projected changes in climate.
  • Climate change will affect community values for generations to come.

Our approach

NIWA and its partners received 4 years of funding from the Ministry for Science & Innovation (now part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment) to create the necessary information and tools to enable adaptation - by central and local government and communities - to the impacts of climate-induced change on the coastal environment. The Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change project ran from 2008 to 2012. 

Our project included three main workstreams:

  • building a national coastal sensitivity profile
  • engaging and informing communities
  • encouraging best practice planning.

Key outcomes of our “Coastal adaptation to climate change” project are:

  • more informed, proactive communities and councils developing local adaptation strategies to climate change
  • the inclusion of these strategies in regional and community coastal planning documents
  • evaluation and monitoring of the uptake and performance of adaptation strategies. 

The poster on the right, (click to enlarge, or download full-size below) outlines the Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change project, and our three work areas.

Download full-size poster (JPG 423 KB)

The results

Research findings and documents from the Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change project are now available – just follow the links under the three workstream headings below. 

Building a national coastal sensitivity profile

Until recently, we have had a poor national picture of the relative sensitivity of New Zealand's coastline to coastal hazards and the potential impacts of climate change. To address this gap, the Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change project team have developed a Coastal Sensitivity Index (CSI), which provides a snapshot of the potential sensitivity of New Zealand's non-rocky coastline to coastal inundation (flooding) and coastal erosion as a result of climate change in the future. The CSI can be viewed as maps of coastal inundation and coastal erosion using Coastal Explorer.

Mapping the CSI for New Zealand is a first step in understanding where the impacts of climate change on the coast may be most significant, and where adaptation activities would be most usefully targeted. It will also raise community awareness about coastal hazards and how they are likely to be affected by climate change.

Coastal adaptation to climate change: mapping a New Zealand coastal sensitivity index (PDF 1.4 MB)

More information about the Sensitivity Index

Engaging and informing communities

What is the best way to engage with local communities about coastal climate change and how to adapt to it? To investigate this, the Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change project team has looked at international literature on the topic, and undertaken work with communities in the Coromandel area of the Waikato region of New Zealand.

A report detailing our community case study in Whitianga, Engaging with communities on coastal adaptation to climate change: Whitianga experience, is available.

Whitianga, Engaging with communities on coastal adaptation to climate change: Whitianga experience (PDF 2.3 MB)

There is also a paper summarising this work, How can we engage with coastal communities over adaptation to climate change?: A case study in Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula, that was delivered at the New Zealand Planning Institute conference in April 2010.

How can we engage with coastal communities over adaptation to climate change?: A case study in Whitianga on the Coromandel Peninsula (PDF 120 KB)

A report summarising our case study work with Ngati Whanaunga in Manaia, Coromandel Peninsula is available below.

Coastal Adaptation to Climate Variability and Change: Examining community risk, vulnerability and endurance at Manaia Settlement, Hauraki-Waikato, Aotearoa-New Zealand (PDF 7.1 MB)

To read more about the work we did with Mercury Bay Area School, read this recent article, published in the New Zealand Science Teacher journal Issue 127, NZST (NZASE).

NZ Science Teacher: Coastal adaptation to climate change (PDF 3 MB)

A research report summarising our work and recommending an approach to engaging with communities, called Engaging communities: Making it Work, is also available.

Engaging communities: Making it Work (PDF 1.3 MB)

Encouraging best practice planning

Another important aspect of the Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change project was encouraging New Zealand's local authorities to plan for and implement adaptation options to prepare for climate change impacts at the coast.

We undertook an evaluation of planning, policy and institutional processes in 2009. Written and verbal interviews were conducted with 30 regional, unitary and district/city councils - the resulting report Local Government planning practice and limitations to adaptation has been finalised, following review from all councils involved and central Government agencies.

Local Government planning practice and limitations to adaptation (PDF 375 KB)

Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change: Pathways to Change (PDF 1.6 MB)

Pathways to Change: poster (PDF 3.2 MB)

Pathways to Change: Workshops 24th & 26th July 2012 (PDF 8.2 MB)

A vital part of the Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change project was to develop some guidance materials to help councils and communities. The team has produced a four-step process to help councils and communities adapt, and this Pathways to Change guidance is available. A PDF poster explaining the Pathways framework is also available.

In July 2012, the CACC team presented two workshops, one in Hamilton and one in Christchurch, where the Pathways to Change framework was presented to a variety of end-users including council staff and representatives from community organisations. In the workshop presentations (see link above), we discussed the current science understanding of sea-level rise around New Zealand and provided tips and guidance that councils could use to help plan for and adapt to sea-level rise in New Zealand over the next 100 years. 

Page last updated: 
4 October 2016
Storm damage along the Esplanade, Owhiro Bay, Wellington. Photo by Dave Allen on 21 June 2013.
CACC poster. You can download a full-size version by clicking on the link in the text.
Parameters behind the Coastal Sensitivity Index. Click to enlarge.