Communities and coastal hazard mitigation
This project investigates the role that community groups can play in mitigating coastal hazards, the key factors that lead to successful or unsuccessful group outcomes and the influence that groups have on hazard mitigation policy. It is part of collaborative research between GNS Science, NIWA, and AgResearch on community participation in coastal hazard mitigation.
The New Zealand coastline presents numerous challenges to resource managers because of its dynamic nature, diverse geomorphology and oceanography and its popularity as a place to live and spend leisure time. Natural processes deliver the full range of physical hazards including beach, dune, and bluff erosion; slides, slumps, and gradual weathering of sea cliffs; and flooding of low-lying areas during major storms.
These hazards pose (or are perceived to pose) a risk to things that humans value. This dynamic environment, coupled with increasing coastal development and escalating coastal property values, is leading to considerable conflict over what should be done about coastal hazards and in particular coastal erosion.
This study has begun to explore the role and involvement of the community in coastal erosion mitigation through six case studies in the North Island of New Zealand. While each of the case studies is different, some commonalities emerge from the data identifying the issues that might be important drivers of erosion mitigation decisions.
Positive environmental outcomes are defined as those that meet the requirements of the RMA section 6–retain natural character–because this phrase is echoed through planning documents nationwide. To this end, we have classified situations where 'soft' options like dune re-vegetation or managed retreat as 'positive environmental outcomes' because they do not impact on natural character, are not contrary to many district plans and do not reduce the amenity value of the area for the wider community.
Negative environmental outcomes may be options based around shoreline armouring (or some other hard engineering option) which although may succeed in stopping the shoreline from retreating further, will generally lead to a loss of high tide beach and natural character of the area.
Key drivers towards positive or negative outcomes are related to relationships and interactions between stakeholders (beach front land owners, wider community, regional and district authorities, technical experts etc.) in particular, power balance, resources, alignment of local authorities and the role of science.|
To date our work suggests that positive outcomes are encouraged when:
1. Cooperative relationships are developed;
2. Local Authorities facilitate group learning;
3. Communities have access to resources such as funding, technical knowledge and assistance and inspiration;
4. Time is taken by the Local Authority to build trust;
5. Perceived (as well as actual) risks are addressed;
6. Claims by lobby groups to represent the wider community are tested;
7. Scientific information is introduced at the right time and in understandable language; and
8. Good records of the physical situation and past attempts to resolve the solution can be used to minimise the time spent revisiting the situation with new owners.