Our vulnerability to higher sea levels and coastal storm events has never been clearer. It’s timely that guidance for local government on ‘Preparing for Coastal Change’ was released in December 2017 which outlines 10 steps for councils to follow in establishing a plan for adapting to coastal hazards and climate change.

​The following summary is based on the more detailed information provided in ‘Preparing for Coastal Change’ and ‘Coastal Hazards and Climate Change — Guidance for Local Government’.

Step 1 — Preparation and context
Set up a multi-disciplinary team, recognising a wide set of expertise, skills and knowledge is needed; make connections with potentially affected communities; and establish (and resource) a work programme.

Step 2 — Hazard and sea-level rise assessments
Identify the extent and magnitude of the hazards, including the effects of rising sea levels on coastal inundation and coastal erosion.

Step 3 — Values and objectives
Identify what and where private property, businesses, local infrastructure and community spaces will potentially be affected by coastal hazards and sea-level rise, and the people who will be affected by these changes.

Use this information to develop objectives to guide the Council’s decision making processes.

Step 4 – Vulnerability and risk
Undertake two different assessments:

  • how vulnerable people and assets are to being negatively affected by coastal hazards and sea level rise
  • the level of risk (likelihood multiplied by the magnitude of the consequences).

Step 5 — Identify options and pathways
Engage with the community to consider the options for adapting to the coastal hazards and sea level rise, including:

  • accommodate
  • protect
  • retreat
  • avoid.

Step 6 — Options evaluation
Evaluate the options against criteria such as: flexibility, feasibility, ability to meet community values and provide co-benefits, value for money, and environmental impacts.

Step 7 — Adaptive planning strategy (with triggers)
Agree on triggers to be monitored, which will provide early signals that a change in approach is required. Examples of coastal signals that can be useful early alerts include:

  • increasing frequency of clearing stormwater drainage systems
  • measurement of saltwater in groundwater systems
  • increasing cost and/or complexity of maintaining pumping systems
  • the number of damaging or disruptive floods in the central business district over a specific time period.

Step 8 — Implementation plan
Prepare a plan which sets out the agreed approach, and the trigger points at which new decisions will be required.

Reflect this in all relevant council plans and strategies, including resource management plans, asset management plans and the long term plan (which will need to identify how implementation of the plan will be financed).

Step 9 — Monitoring
Develop new monitoring systems (at a regional rather than a district level) which focus on the impacts on coastal areas. Monitoring of the effectiveness of the climate change adaptation plan will also be required.

Step 10 — Review and adjust
Regularly review the plan to reflect both changing risk levels and any new tools for managing hazard risk.

  • A more indepth summary of the MfE guidance on adapting to climate change is available in the ‘free resources’ section of my website.