Co-Creating Adaptive Solutions to Gradual-Onset Coastal Hazards in New Zealand

Emma Ryan, The University of Auckland, School of Environment, Auckland, New Zealand, Mark E Dickson, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand, Paul S Kench, Simon Fraser University, Department of Earth Sciences, Vancouver, BC, Canada and Susan Owen, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada
Coastal communities are facing intensification and acceleration of coastal hazard risk as a result of climate change. Management agencies and communities are confronted with the dual and profound challenges of recognizing the escalation of risk and developing adaptive strategies to reduce these risks. While the development of robust and transformative adaptation pathways is highly desired in the context of complex and uncertain socio-environmental conditions, there are limited examples of collaborative anticipatory planning for gradual-onset hazards (erosion, inundation and sea-level rise) at the coast. Developing adaptation pathways requires co-production of transdisciplinary knowledge resulting from the collaboration between researchers, engineers, policy makers and community. Here we discuss a co-produced, multi-disciplinary coastal adaptation research project funded by the New Zealand government. This research project dovetailed with the development of a 100-year regional coastal hazards strategy in New Zealand. This strategy was co-produced by local decision making agents, consultants, researchers, alongside representatives of the community. Despite multiple contested interests and values, a proactive, adaptive strategy for long-term response to gradual-onset hazard was co-developed and agreed upon. We report on lessons drawn from analyses of project documentation and reflections on our collective involvement in this regional strategy development process. These lessons will be of value for communities and practitioners to improve reflective practice for adaptive strategies that address evolving coastal hazards exacerbated by sea-level rise, and will inform future research priorities. The strategy development highlighted the strength of co-production approaches that draw together a broad set of research and community interests in deliberative projects that inform coastal hazard adaptation planning. It highlighted the value of research-informed decision making in a dialogue with stakeholders including open, robust discussion of scientific and community (including indigenous) knowledge. The co-production approach was enabled and enhanced by the integrated, transparent and flexible governance structure of the regional coastal hazards strategy.