‘Plan for the worst' on sea-level rise

Strong community support for ongoing dune planting and restoration projects around our coastline

Talia Parker





Local News

The Thames-coromandel District Council’s Shoreline Management Plan project lead Amon Martin has spoken by invitation at the World Climate Research Project’s Sea Level Conference in Singapore. The conference hosted leading climate experts who shared the latest science behind sea level rise projections, while other global participants shared their own community approaches to protecting lives, properties and assets in coastal environments. “It was invaluable to get a deeper understanding of the certainty, and also the areas of uncertainty, that underpin the latest science on sea level rise,” says Amon. “This is the science that is informing our decisions here at home and it’s critical that we use it to think about how to reduce uncertainty as we plan for our future in the Coromandel.” Amon presented an overview of the council’s three-year Shoreline Management Plan project to the conference, receiving feedback that the detailed work done over the project adheres to best global practice. Amon was supported by the project’s co-chairs Paul Majurey and David Taipari. “What we’re doing here in the Coromandel isn’t in isolation from the rest of the world. I had discussions with many community leaders from around the world who are grappling with the same challenges and hazards,” says Amon. “Compared to others who are already needing to build physical protection structures, because their cities are built right on the shoreline, we have an opportunity to plan our future development and densities more carefully to take into account the expected hazards.” The Shoreline Management Plans for each section of coastline are being finalised and will be presented to the council in September for adoption. Amon says local residents have provided their expertise in the fight against sea level rise. Since April, the council has held online and in-person public meetings to discuss its proposed Shoreline Management Plan with residents. Amon says residents had brought “very localised knowledge” to the meetings — “they know their environment, and how the coastline behaves”. Amon says residents had expressed “a wide range of opinions — from those who think that sea level rise is not something to be overly concerned about, through to those who think we need to move fast to prepare for the risks”. “Some residents felt that responding to risk should essentially be left up to each individual property owner, others felt that urgent collective action, especially in Thames, was a priority to protect community assets. “There was a lot of support for our ongoing dune planting and restoration projects around our coastline. “If long-term sea level rise happens differently to what we expect, we can adapt our course of action. This means we won’t commit money to expensive required. “But if sea level rise is faster than we anticipate, then we have an agreed plan for what needs to happen, and we have a clear picture of the risk.” He says the plan will “influence many aspects of life in our communities”, and not just those controlled by the council. The plan’s conclusions will be shared with Waka Kotahi to be considered in roading decisions for the district. Minister for Climate Change James Shaw told the HC Post he “would encourage local councils to consider upper-range, worst-case scenarios when developing plans for adaptation”. “There are a range of scenarios available, but the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] found that even under lowemissions scenarios, sea level rise is likely to continue accelerating.” He also urged local governments to consider the impact of vertical land movement in coastal areas. “The effects of sea level rise will vary significantly at a local scale. This is mostly down to the rate at which land at the coast is rising or subsiding.” He said it was critical for local councils to take a proactive approach to sea level rise. “For too long we all thought about climate change as something happening elsewhere in the world but, as recent events have shown, it’s happening here, it’s happening to us, and it’s happening now. “The sooner we start, the more effective our efforts will be.” projects if they are not