Adaptation planning is about preparing now for the effects of coastal hazards on our communities, infrastructure and environment so that we are ready for what may happen in the future.

It’s like having a map for a road trip, with different route options that we can take depending on the conditions we experience along the way.

We’re generally following the approach recommended by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) in the 2017 Coastal Hazards and Climate Change Guidance for Local Government(external link), and modifying it where appropriate for Ōtautahi Christchurch's conditions. For a summary of the MfE recommended process and Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways (DAPP) read our fact sheet [PDF, 577 KB]

The guidance document sets out a ten-step process for how we can adapt to the actual and expected changes from climate change. It’s a process that puts community engagement at the centre of decision-making. It takes into consideration everything from our natural and built environment and our cultural values, to community aspirations and expectations. It also gives us a way to progress things and make decisions, even when there is uncertainty about the rate and effects of climate change. 

The Urban Development and Transport Committee endorsed the Coastal Hazards Adaptation Programme report(external link) in November 2020.

Given the extent of our district’s exposure, we need to take a staggered approach to develop community-led adaptation plans.

We’ll be focusing adaptation planning on priority locations where coastal hazards are considered imminent within the next 30 years.  Where hazards are less imminent, we’ll focus on raising awareness of hazards to ensure communities are aware of the risk.

This Coastal Adaptation Framework [PDF, 1.7 MB] is a proposed approach for how we will work with communities to develop adaptation pathways that will allow us to plan for, and respond to, coastal hazard risks now and in the future.

The framework sets out:

  • Roles and responsibilities.
  • Proposed principles to guide decision-making.
  • A proposed flexible process for engagement and decision-making.

It is designed to align with the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010, the 2017 Ministry for the Environment’s (MfE) Coastal Hazards and Climate Change Guidance for Local Government, and relevant strategies, policies and plans from the Council.

We recognise that adaptation plans for different areas will likely vary, but by establishing a framework with clear principles and an agreed process, we hope to achieve an equitable approach that effectively prepares our communities for the impacts of climate change, regardless of when or where adaptation planning takes place.

Tell us what you think

Have your say on our Coastal Adaption Framework – our approach for working with communities to adapt to coastal hazards.

Phase 1: Programme initiation (2020 to 2021)

This phase is focused on setting things up, such as the Coastal Hazards Working Group(external link), and getting the information we need, such as commissioning an updated Coastal Hazards Assessment, appointing adaptation experts Royal Haskoning DHV to provide advice, and developing our processes. 

We’ve estimated this phase will take at least a year.

Phase 2: City-wide engagement (Late 2021)

This is when we start the city-wide conversations. While coastal communities will lead their own plans, other parts of the city may be asked to contribute financially, and there may be impacts that are shared across the district.

It’s important we have a city-wide conversation about what kinds of options are on the table, the process for shortlisting them, and how things might be funded.

It’s also important that children and young people are involved in this conversation – climate change is an inter-generational issue and future generations will be living with the impacts of decisions made now.

We’ve estimated this phase will take at least six months, starting later in 2021.

Phase 3: Collaboration adaptation planning with communities and rūnanga (Early 2022)

This is when we start talking with specific communities. Because the timing and severity of sea-level rise impacts will vary across the district there is time for adaptation planning to occur in tranches.

This also better recognises the diversity of communities and the different approaches that may best suit each community. 

We’re proposing to start adaptation planning with some of the communities in the Whakaraupō / Lyttelton Mt Herbert area. We’ve estimated this phase will take at least 1.5 years to do properly and we’ll be starting at the beginning of 2022.

It is predicted that New Zealand will experience 30cm of sea-level rise by 2050, 50cm of rising by 2075 and 1m of rising by 2115 [1]

Even if emissions are reduced, it is virtually certain that the global mean sea level will continue to rise through 2100, and there is high confidence that longer-term impacts will be seen for centuries to millennia to come [2].

Low lying coastal and inland communities across Ōtautahi Christchurch will be increasingly impacted by intense storms leading to more frequent and extensive coastal flooding, erosion, and rising groundwater. 

The New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 requires local authorities to consider and plan for these risks through pathways such as adaptation planning with communities, and the management of risks through the District Plan [3].

As a region, Canterbury has around $1B of local government-owned infrastructure exposed to coastal hazards, the majority of which is in Ōtautahi Christchurch.  As sea levels rise, Canterbury has the most public infrastructure exposed to coastal hazards in New Zealand [4].

As a city, Ōtautahi Christchurch is more exposed to coastal hazards than either Auckland or Wellington[5].  Across the Christchurch district, approximately 25,000 properties are exposed to coastal hazards over the next 120 years. 

The updated 2021 Coastal Hazard Assessment potentially impacts around 16,000 properties across Christchurch and Banks Peninsula. Of these properties, around 15,000 are at risk of coastal flooding and 1,000 are at risk of erosion over the next 120 years. The 2017 Coastal Hazard Assessment also included areas further up the rivers, where coastal flooding is less dominant (but remains a factor) and from that assessment approximately 9,000 additional properties (outside of the 2021 assessment) are also likely to experience some coastal flooding. 

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) estimates that with 1m of sea level rise the replacement value of buildings in Ōtautahi Christchurch is approximately $6.7B - the majority of which are residential[7].

Note that as we update our information, these numbers will change.


[1] Bell, R., Lawrence, J., Allan, S., Blackett, P., & Stephens, S. (2017). Coastal Hazards and Climate Change: Guidance for local government. Ministry for the Environment.  (Note: This statistic uses a baseline period of 1986-2005. We have experienced around 10cm of sea-level rise since this baseline period and therefore expect to see around 20cm of additional sea-level rise over the next 30 years, by 2050).

[2]Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (2021). Summary for Policymakers. In Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press. 

[3] Department of Conservation. (2010). New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement. https://www.doc.govt.nz/globalassets/documents/conservation/marine-and-coastal/coastal-management/nz-coastal-policy-statement-2010.pdf

[4] Simonson, T., & Hall, G. (2019). Vulnerable: the quantum of local government infrastructure exposed to sea-level rise. Local Government New Zealand.

[5] Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment. (2015). Preparing New Zealand for rising seas: Certainty and Uncertainty.

[7] National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. (2019). Coastal Flooding Exposure Under Future Sea-level Rise for New Zealand. The Deep South Challenge.

A collaborative agency approach is fundamental to the success of this work programme.

A significant partner for Council in this work is Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu and Papatipu Rūnanga, given the intrinsic values that Māori holds with whenua, wai and the environment. 

In recognition of this partnership, two rūnanga representatives have been appointed to the Coastal Hazards Working Group.

In addition, all critical aspects of the work programme to date have had input from Mahaanui Kurataiao Ltd on behalf of Ngāi Tahu.

Alignment with coastal environment planning work led by Environment Canterbury is also critical and two representatives of Environment Canterbury have joined the Coastal Hazards Working Group. 

Environment Canterbury has also provided significant staff input to support the development of the work programme to date.

Council is also working closely with the University of Canterbury who are supporting the development of a risk and vulnerability assessment.

Read Mahaanui Kurataiao Ltd's Cultural Narrative - historical occupation and use of the coastal environment [PDF, 1.2 MB].

Read more about the Coastal Hazards Working Group(external link). 

Coastal Hazards Working Group Terms of Reference [PDF, 644 KB](external link).