A Ground-breaking Coastal Climate Adaptation Plan in New Zealand

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Climate adaptation New Zealand council adopts a ground-breaking coastal climate adaptation plan

New Zealand is already feeling the impacts of climate change. According to the country’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), weather extremes are occurring five times more frequently in the past ten years (Frame, 2022).

The country is also experiencing an increase in warming. Since 2014, New Zealand has had 7 of its warmest years, and since 2005, 10 of its warmest years since 1880 (Frame, 2022).

Other impacts of climate change are sea level rise and coastal erosion. Sea level rise in New Zealand is projected to increase by up to a metre by 2100, and this will mean more coastal erosion and flooding, damaging infrastructures like roads, bridges, and homes.

In New Zealand, two-thirds of its population live within 5 kilometres of the coast, so the rising sea level will affect many residents.

In 2017, the NZ Ministry for the Environment (MfE) published guidance for local government, which provided direction on the coastal adaptation planning process.

New Zealand’s First National Adaptation Plan 2022, launched in August 2022, recognized that some of the effects of climate change are now unavoidable, and the country needs to prepare communities, especially those facing coastal it also ensures that communities have the information and support they need to prepare for these impacts.

Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC)

Recent storms in the regions are costing the Thames-Coromandel District, a district in the North Island of New Zealand covering all of the Coromandel Peninsula and extending south to Hikutaii.

The district had a population of 33,700 in June 2022 and covered 2,207.96 km2 (852.50 sq mi) with a population density of 15.3 people per km.

Three storm events in June 2017, June 2018, and July 2018 are estimated to cost $3.3 million for repairs and reinstatement of local roads (not including State Highways), according to a report presented to TCDC (Recent storms, 2018).

The storm of January 2018 caused the highest water levels in recorded history for the Firth of Thames region.

The storm led the council to adopt the Thames-Coromandel Coastal Management Strategy in June 2018, which sets out the context and challenges of coastal climate adaptation.

The Thames-Coromandel Coastal Management Strategy lays out goals, objectives, and actions to support the sustainable management of coastal resources, now and for future generations.

According to the TCDC website, the council appointed in April 2019 a consortium led by Royal Haskoning DHV (RHDHV) to undertake shoreline management planning for the Coromandel’s 400km of coast.

The aim was to establish a framework for the sustainable management of risks to people, property, the environment and tāonga associated with coastal hazards.

The output is Thames-Coromandel Coastal Adaptation Pathways (CAPs) that address more immediate short- and medium-term issues considering how communities may need to adapt in the longer term.

These pathways are intended to reduce the risk from coastal hazards to an acceptable or tolerable level; and develop tailored, flexible solutions to ensure the long-term sustainability and resilience of the Coromandel’s coastal communities. They build from the aspirations and concerns of TCDC’s communities and the principles of kaitiakitanga.

In September 2022, TCDC adopted the project outputs, including 138 adaptation pathways. TCDC says that in a future where we will face greater challenges associated with climate change and sea level rise, these pathways will guide how the district’s coastal communities adapt and improve their resilience.

Council swift (2022) says, “The pathways are the key outcome of the Shoreline Management project, which has worked to define the flooding and erosion risks to the region’s people and assets over the next century and beyond. Each pathway is specific to a section of the coastline and sets out how communities want to manage the risks from sea level rise”.

A co-governance structure with the Pare Hauraki Collective has been critical to the project’s development and execution, along with community leadership through four Coastal Panels (Council swift,2022).

“Empowering local people to make recommendations on the future management of coastlines has been hugely valuable,” said project lead Amon Martin (Council swift,2022).

The video below gives further information.

Click this link to learn more about The Thames-Coromandel District Council Coastal Pathways


How climate change affects New Zealand. (2021 September 30). Ministry for the Environment. Retrieved from https://environment.govt.nz/facts-and-science/climate-change/how-climate-change-affects-new-zealand

Frame, K. (2022 January 4). NIWA climate summary: Weather extremes happening five times more frequently in past 10 years. RNZ. Retrieved from https://www.rnz.co.nz/news/national/459038/niwa-climate-summary-weather-extremes-happening-five-times-more-frequently-in-past-10-years

Council swift to adopt Shoreline Management pathways. (2022, October 3). NZ Herald. Retrieved from https://www.nzherald.co.nz/bay-of-plenty-times/news/council-swift-to-adopt-shoreline-management-pathways/

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