Libya floods: Satellite images show scale of devastation (

It’s been reported that this week’s floods in Libya have wiped out a quarter of the eastern coastal city of Derna. A huge Mediterranean storm burst dams and swept buildings away. Some experts saw it coming.

Aftershocks are still being felt following the devastating earthquake in Morocco last week. Reported to be the deadliest earthquake in six decades, the quake has damaged buildings in Marrakech’s old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and entire villages are now rubble. Sydney’s experiencing record spring temperatures that could cancel its iconic marathon this week and here in Aotearoa we are still recovering from extreme weather events. As planners, we have an important opportunity to prepare for what might come next.

The scientific consensus is that human activities, especially the burning of fossil fuels, are driving climate change, and the impacts are now being felt in every region of the world. We are seeing how extreme weather puts people, structures and activities at risk of serious harm. These events are also costly. Both the weather-related effects and the accelerating impact of sea-level rise are major challenges for Aotearoa New Zealand.

New Zealand has around 15,000 kilometres of coastline, mountainous terrain, large rivers that move water from mountains to sea and many coastal and riverine communities. It is also geologically active. It is likely that our country will continue to suffer destructive weather events and rising seas, and that global warming will enhance their severity. The unknown factors are how extreme and frequent the storms will become, what the pace of sea-level rise will be, and whether the country will adapt quickly enough to reduce the level of damage.

Managed Retreat (described in the Expert Working Group Report as planned relocation or te hekenga rauora) is a process involving the planned, strategic withdrawal of existing human activities and their associated assets from certain localities as a result of actual or predicted natural disasters. The report describes it as “the purposeful, coordinated movement of people and assets out of harm’s way”.

Most recent instances of planned relocations in Aotearoa New Zealand have been reactive, in the sense that they have occurred after some form of natural disaster.

Adaptation strategies include a spectrum of activities and managed retreat is just one adaptation response, which does not have to been seen as the last resort. The Select Committee Inquiry into Climate Adaptation is now open and will provide the foundations for climate adaptation legislation. We see this as an opportunity for planners in New Zealand to be world leading in this area, being proactive rather than reactive in our response to natural disasters. Planning is an ongoing process, whether we are in a recovery or a planning phase, and we’d like to encourage members and the wider profession to participate fully in this inquiry.

Next Tuesday 19th September, our lunchtime webinar will provide an overview of the key issues and options for a system for climate adaptation planning ...

Register for this free NZPI event HERE

Our latest membership survey on climate adaptation opens today. This survey will run for two weeks, and we hope to see strong engagement and a range of viewpoints from planning practitioners. This survey close at midnight on Friday 29th of September. Check your inbox for the link.