Councils have to respond to the increasing intensity of weather events, organising civil defence responses then fixing damaged infrastructure. At the same time, they need to make a plan to help their communities adapt to the effects of rising sea levels and increasing coastal hazards.

That’s why I have prepared a summary (10 pages) of the ‘Coastal Hazards and Climate Change’ guidance for local government, which was published by the Ministry for the Environment in December 2017. This is available in the ‘free resources’ section of my website.

I hope this summary helps you to quickly get to grips with the core advice being provided by the Ministry for the Environment, and to consider how you can apply this framework to your area of responsibility.

The MfE guidance will be welcomed at a regional level, to support the development of overarching plans by regional and unitary council as it will encourage nationally consistent approaches to climate change adaptation.

However, the guidance also notes “some plans which focus on a particular issue may be a subset to the overall strategy or plan, contributing to asset and reserves management plans”.

That means individual staff members in district and unitary councils who need to plan for climate change adaptation related to stormwater, flood risk, land drainage and other issues can also use this framework. This will ensure more localised and issue-specific plans will integrate well with the larger scale regional plans, when these are completed.

The MfE guidance offers a range of options for creating a plan — so people working on smaller scale plans could choose to adopt the lower cost approaches to coastal hazard assessments (such as reviews of existing reports and problems, and discussions with experienced staff), and less resource-intensive options for community engagement (such as interviews with key people).

The guidance differs from previous versions, and from current coastal hazard management practice, with regard to the treatment of uncertainty (building in flexibility) and the central role of community engagement in the decision-making process.

Here are some of the highlights from the guidance (which are included in the summary):

  • how to decide what level of community engagement to undertake
  • specific sea level rise measures to use when considering the different scenarios
  • guidance on what sea level rise scenarios to apply, depending on the proposed land use
  • how to use triggers to create a flexible long term planning process.​