Managed Retreat – Practicality and Pitfalls

SESSION: Thursday 20th April
Monique Eade

Managed retreat is hard. It is a hard discussion to have with a community, it is hard to put a price to, it is hard to fund, and it is hard to implement. Yet for many coastal settlements retreat will be inevitable.

Amberley Beach is a small coastal settlement of 109 dwellings. A one-kilometre stretch of upper beach bund constructed in 2003 separates the settlement from the sea, with the bund protecting the settlement from coastal inundation and helping to limit the effects of coastal erosion. Relocating the bund inland as the beach erodes continues to buy the community some time but it does not remove the increasing level of risk.

Additional to the coastal inundation and erosion risk, the settlement also faces issues with fluvial and groundwater flooding. The community have considered options to address the multi-flood hazard risk, but these are financially prohibitive and practically unrealistic. Retreat in the next 20-30 years is almost inevitable. After years of discussion, the community have some acceptance that retreat is the only pathway available. They are engaged and open to help design and implement a managed retreat programme.

Designing and implementing a managed retreat programme comes with its share of challenges. We have a current planning framework whereby it is easier to replace an existing dwelling like for like than to build a relocatable dwelling raised and setback. We have an emergency management and insurance framework whereby there is money for disaster recovery but not for risk reduction. We have an ageing community who all want different things from a managed retreat programme despite a collective approach being the most affordable.

This presentation will explore some of our experiences in discussing managed retreat with the community, how the current legislation and planning rules make adaptation hard, how we have shifted from a protect at all costs mentality and how we have been able to have open discussions about Council’s inability to fund a buyout project.

Presented By

Monique Eade

Hurunui District Council