Coastal Hazards and Climate Change NZ – What We Need to Know and Do

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Coastal Hazards and Climate Change New Zealand

The New Zealand’s Ministry for the Environment has been providing local government guidance on how to adapt to coastal hazards associated with the sea-level rise since 2001.

The Coastal Hazards and Climate Change 2017 is a major revision of the 2008 edition, which includes the finding and projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th assessment report.

The guidance covers three main types of coastal hazards: coastal erosion, coastal inundation, and rising groundwater and salination in coastal lowlands caused by rising sea levels.

Thoughtfully put together by a team of experts and consultants, the Guidance provides a lot of information on the current coastal hazards New Zealand, how the central and local government has dealt with it in the past, and what can be done in the present and the future in anticipation of the continuing sea-level rise.

It also looks into the scientific predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, data from mapping systems, case studies, and scientific data and evidence. It combines all this information to formulate an informed guide for local governments, the public, stakeholders, and infrastructure providers to use.

It examines existing New Zealand policies that protect the coasts and natural environment, whether it needs revisions to be made relevant to the changing climate while considering creating new policies that would deal directly with coastal hazards.

The guide looks at New Zealand values and the Maori culture and tradition in the planning and decision-making process, giving value in seeking out engagement with the community in the dissemination of information and gathering information activities.

A brief overview of the document’s content

The report describes how New Zealand’s urban and peri-urban areas are mostly situated near the coast, along harbours, estuaries, creeks and lowland rivers so they are exposed to hazards brought about by climate change and this rising sea level will worsen these hazards.

Because of exposures to coastal hazards and the costs involved there is a need for adaptation and risk management planning. In both activities, uncertainties cannot be avoided, in fact, uncertainties are inherent in most planning activities especially in long-term planning. In dealing with uncertainties the report encourages transparency, and the use of flexible decision-making in long term planning.

Chapter 2

This chapter discusses the role of local government in planning, leadership, and application of the NZ Coastal Policy statement of 2010.  The purpose of the local government is to enable democratic local decision-making that involves the community. The local government, adhering to the RMA, also sets out policies and framework in dealing with areas or developments that will be are exposed to coastal hazards and climate change.

Chapter 3

Chapter 3 examines community engagement principle. It defines what the community is and who is involved in it. It also talks about the importance of engaging the community, stakeholders, and the Maori community. Encouraging debates, while respecting each community’s values and tradition.

This chapter sets out the participants and understanding the current and social context as this will help the engagement process. The goals or purpose of the agreement should be clear and should provide information or to stimulate debate.

Engagement with the community can be on a national or district level. It states that engagement is easier when science is accepted, the problem is simple, and the level of trust to the source is high. This chapter also provides the guiding principle of community engagement.

Chapter 4

Chapter 4 provides direction on understanding and awareness of changing coastal risk. It covers the treatment of uncertainty in decision-making from ongoing sea-level rise, the importance of dealing with uncertainty, and why decisions can be made in the face of uncertainties.

This chapter states that uncertainty exists in all evidence and it increases in longer-term projections, uncertainty in climate change suggests chances of more negative consequences, and including uncertainty reduces the chances of under- and over-adaptation.

Chapter 5

Chapter 5 deals with changing climate and future projections for coastal areas.  The chapter shows the certainty of climate change and coastal impacts from sea-level rise, the evidence of sea-level rise based on historic records both globally and in New Zealand. This chapter also discusses the representative concentration pathway (RCP) scenarios based on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th assessment report and the effect of reducing greenhouse gas emission to global sea-level rise.

The chapter includes the use of global projections to generate New Zealand scenarios, the basis and principles for sea-level rise guidance for New Zealand, and specific sea-level rise guidance for planning and design in New Zealand. It also provides advice on the projected changes in storm surge, winds, and waves.

Chapter 6

Chapter 6 gives information on the Coastal hazards, its impacts and assessments. It covers a summary of coastal hazards and geomorphology, the impacts of climate change to coastal hazards, the requirements and components of coastal hazard assessment, the scale of hazard assessment from regional screening and detailed local studies, consideration of inundation, wave setup, and runup, and case studies and examples of recent hazard assessment and tools.

Chapter 7

This chapter talks about establishing community values and objectives. It defines the community values of iwi/hapu, and stakeholders. This chapter presents case studies to determine community values and reframing it to a set of objectives and lastly using the community values to develop local government objectives.

Chapter 8

Vulnerability assessments, risk assessments and their guiding principles are discussed in this chapter. It provides details on:

  • how to deal with it,
  • how to sequence risk assessments and different scales and steps,
  • the engagement for assessing vulnerability and risk,
  • differences in the view of values and how to deal with it, and risks and scientific information.

Chapter 9

This chapter talks about adapting to the changing coastal risks arising from climate change. It covers what we are adapting to and why, what is the meaning of adaptive capacity and adaptation and its context in decision-making, identification and evaluation of options, and community engagement.

Chapter 10

Chapter 10 discusses the adaptive planning strategy and implementation. It covers the development of adaptive planning strategy, how to develop signals and triggers (decision points), guidance on implementing an adaption framework and response, the scope of planning frameworks, the range of response options and measures, and community engagement.

Chapter 11

Chapter 11 is about monitoring and reviewing. It discusses the context for monitoring and review, the involvement of communities in monitoring, guidance on what to monitor to support ongoing adaptation, and reviewing plans and adaptation pathways.

Chapter 12

This chapter lists the tools and resources in the creation of the guidance for local governance document.  It enumerates the links to the resources from the Ministry of the Environment and Department of Conservation, other relevant New Zealand guidance, IPCC Summary and Synthesis Reports: Fifth Assessment Report (2013/14), relevant international adaptation guidance (planning, infrastructure and assets), relevant international community engagement guidance, and tools and simulation games.

Overall, the “Coastal Hazards and Climate Change” document provides comprehensive and thorough information on all the issues surrounding coastal hazards in New Zealand.

It is worthwhile to browse through the guide if you are looking for information as a stakeholder, a member or leader of a community, involved in district planning or policymaking, as a professional, an infrastructure provider, or a researcher.  

Everyone and anyone interested in the subject of climate change, coastal hazards, and rising sea-level will find this document very valuable and useful. CLICK on the button below to get a copy of the document:

PHOTO CREDIT: The suburb viewed from Mauao by Schwede66Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
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