Coastal settlement tackles climate change


Planning is well in hand to meet climate change issues in the future at Amberley Beach. PHOTO:...
Planning is well in hand to meet climate change issues in the future at Amberley Beach. PHOTO: JOHN COSGROVE
A small North Canterbury coastal community, working alongside the Hurunui District Council, is addressing climate change issues in preparation for the future.

An innovative proposal for proactive retreat, and land banking, was developed as part of the Amberley Beach Coastal Adaptation Plan (CAP), to enable the community to have control over their future and address the threat of coastal erosion, flooding and sea level rise at the small beach settlement.

The council’s coastal adaptation project with the Amberley Beach community, has been recognised as the best in New Zealand in the professional planning realm.

The CAP won the New Zealand Planning Institute’s Best Practice Award for Climate Change at the Institute’s conference last week, and went on to win the Supreme Award — the Nancy Northcroft Planning Practice Award — on the final day of the conference.

The awards recognise the work of planners in developing and implementing innovative policies, plans and projects to address climate change issues in New Zealand/Aotearoa.

The council’s CAP is believed to be one of just a handful approved in New Zealand.

It was born from the council’s planning team engaging with the beach community on every phase of the project, which provided everyone an equal voice in the plan’s development. The plan outlines how the Amberley Beach community will take control of its future and adapt to the changing hazard risk over the next 100 years.

Coastal erosion, coastal inundation, rising groundwater, fluvial and pluvial flooding were all considered impacts of climate change assessment.

Chief Strategy and Community Officer Judith Batchelor, who set up much of the programme, says too often councils get caught in engineering their way out of problems.

‘‘Using a planning lens to undertake such projects allows us to step back, and consider the full range of options available.’’

Planners helped to facilitate the community discussions and provide technical planning advice, while consultants, Jacobs assisted by providing science advice directly to the community.

This engagement required the team to develop and use engaging and innovative ways of communicating technical information, so the Amberley Beach community could foster and understand the information, then form decisions foundered on science.

Chief Executive Officer Hamish Dobbie says community involvement set the council’s project apart from others at the conference.

‘‘It (the award), is recognition of a community that has got involved in the process.’’

He says 37 out of 109 property owners offered feedback on the option of land banking to prepare for managed retreated.

While it appeared to be a small number, he says councils rarely get everyone involved in these types of community consultation processes, and reflects about the same percentage of those that take part in local government elections.

He says it was important to council the plan was owned by the community, and it was the planners’ role to balance the competing needs of different community members, different generations and the environment.

‘‘It is easy to visualise, design, and price protection options, while proactive relocation is a much harder concept to discuss and evaluate.

‘‘The community did not shy away from these discussions.

He says Land Banking now forms part of the council’s Long Term Plan, where money is set aside to facilitate the purchase of land to relocate to in the future.

The purchase is done through council, and the ratepayer would pay back the purchase price. ‘‘If people want to do it, we are prepared to do this on their behalf.

‘‘We have looked at potential sites in the range of the sort of money we are talking about,’’ Mr Dobbie says. He credits the community and his staff for enabling a plan to be put in place, and also the council for its ‘‘bravery in funding this on going work for three years’’.

Mr Dobbie says the plan now had to be executed and be kept alive.

‘‘We have strategies in place for that to happen,’’ he says.

Meanwhile the council and its other coastal communities are working on similar plans.