Coastal resilienceRethinking coastal planning approaches
The sound of waves, an ocean view, a beach at your doorstep — these might define the ultimate lifestyle choice. But who will pay for the sea wall to keep those seaside mansions and holiday homes safe as sea levels rise? What about public beach access? And how long would it provide protection anyway? Are there other options we can explore to realize the many benefits of our coasts in an era of climate change? Rising sea levels and other climate change effects are forcing a major re-think of coastal planning approaches, says a natural hazards planning expert.
The sound of waves, an ocean view, a beach at your doorstep — these might define the ultimate lifestyle choice. But who will pay for the sea wall to keep those seaside mansions and holiday homes safe as sea levels rise? What about public beach access? And how long would it provide protection anyway?
Are there other options we can explore to realize the many benefits of our coasts in an era of climate change?
Rising sea levels and other climate change effects are forcing a major re-think of coastal planning approaches here and abroad, says Massey University of New Zealandnatural hazards planning expert Professor Bruce Glavovic.
The recent devastation in Vanuatu by what has been described as the worst tropical cyclone ever to hit the Pacific is another timely reminder of the extent of damage wrought by weather extremes, says the co-editor and contributing writer of Climate Change and the Coast: Building Resilient Communities(CRC Press, 2015).
A Massey University release reportsthat the new solutions-focused book highlights the need for New Zealand communities and councils to adapt, to be more “nimble” in devising legislation and planning provisions, and to embrace new concepts such as “adaptive pathways” and “managed retreat” — or long-term re-location of housing away from exposed coastal sites — in the face of a changing climate.
The concept of “reflexive adaptation” is introduced — capturing the principle of critical self-reflection and self-correction as coastal communities deal with change, uncertainty, surprise and contestation. These are among ideas canvassed in the book, which explores the potential impact of climate change on millions of coastal dwellers globally — including case studies in Auckland’s Mission Bay and Kawakawa Bay. It draws lessons from twenty-first century coastal management experiences across the globe, from settings as diverse as New Zealand, Australia, Britain, southern Africa, the Maldives, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.
Contributing international writers from diverse disciplines assess what measures governments, councils and communities are taking, or not, in the face of climate change impacts that compound already pervasive impacts resulting from rapid population growth and development intensification.
Realizing the benefits of living at the coast in a changing climate requires “flexible and adaptive governance arrangements to allow us to make informed decisions as things unfold,” says Professor Glavovic, based at the School of People, Environment and Planning at the Manawatū campus.
“The impacts, risk, costs and benefits of alternative pathways are not evenly distributed and preferred solutions will be highly contested,” he says.
So what are the mechanisms in our planning and legal systems that allow us to air these issues, and to discuss and think creatively about charting the best possible pathway for coastal communities?
“There is a real need for leadership at a national level, and active and authentic engagement of local communities to develop solutions that build adaptive capacity, resilience and sustainability,” Professor Glavovic says.
He says the book aims to provide practical guidance, based on real-world experience, to people involved in coastal community planning and decision-making — from infrastructure engineers, community development workers, planners and public administrators to coastal scientists and elected officials.
“The reality is that our coasts are incredibly valuable, treasured and special places — not just in New Zealand but around the world, so they attract people,” he says.
“They are also places that are layered with risk because of storms, flooding, and various naturally occurring processes. And because we literally want to live on the beach, in an era of climate change some of these hazards are becoming more pronounced: the coast is the front line of climate change.
“If we don’t find practical and effective ways to deal with climate change at the coast, we’re not going to deal with it very well elsewhere.”