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About 55 people attended the "Empowering coastal communities to adapt to climate change" workshop, organised by the Dunedin City Council and Dune Restoration Trust, at Long Beach Hall on Saturday.
Mr Dahm, who was one of the speakers at the workshop, said people needed to adjust their behaviour and live more in harmony with the coast. "We can't win the fight with our beaches."
It had been shown in other seaside communities that alternatives to expensive engineering works like sea walls were effective and also restored and enhanced the amenity and recreational values of coasts.
The idea that "dumping" a seawall along a coast would fix the problem was a "nonsense", he said.
These changes would not happen overnight, but if people better understood their coasts and changed their behaviour, it could be done, he said.
"Making use of natural protection is often the best protection. You create the space and have a natural buffer like a dune and appropriate natural vegetation."
Dunedin City Council coastal parks officer Renee Gordon said once people understood the dune process, talks could begin about what could be achieved along Dunedin's coast.
She hoped people at the workshop would take the information back to their groups and communities and raise awareness of the value of dune system.