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Climate Adaptive Communities

A research project funded by the Deep South National Science Challenge.

Project leader: Assoc Prof Janet Stephenson (Centre for Sustainability)
Associate Investigators: Dr Caroline Orchiston (Centre for Sustainability), Dr Sophie Bond (Geography Department, Otago University), Dr Gradon Diprose & Dr Nick Kirk (Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research), Dr Amanda Thomas (Victoria University of Wellington), Dr Wendy Saunders (GNS Science).
Masters students: Charlotta Heyd (Otago University) and Katy Simon (Victoria University of Wellington)

Many areas of New Zealand face extreme exposure to climate hazards like coastal erosion, flooding and rising groundwater levels. Communities will face increasing physical, social, financial and emotional challenges, and councils need new ways to engage with communities.

This research developed a community development framework for the way we adapt and make decisions about climate change. It draws on interviews and insights from community members, iwi members and council staff. The research was also grounded in its case study locations of the Hutt Valley and South Dunedin.
Council engagement with communities about climate impacts requires more than 'business as usual' engagement processes, because:

  • Adaptive decisions will need to be made at many points in time, probably over decades
  • These decisions often have to be made without a full understanding of what the future holds
  • Multiple individual decisions could result in inequitable outcomes, unless council has an overview of implications for the entire community
  • The community members most severely affected may well be those who are least empowered and least accustomed to ‘having a say’ in council decisions
  • It takes time to build the trust and capacity to be involved in decisions that have such far-reaching implications.

Below are links to videos, webinars, reports and a cartoon that have been produced form the research. These are mainly aimed to help local government staff to engage with communities for the long journey of climate adaptation They can also be useful for those who want to organise together to build resilience:

  1. Neighbour's Response to the 2015 floods and subsequent events.
  2.  Dunedin City Council’s response and move towards proactively planning for climate hazards 
  • You can also check out this hour-long research seminar video, Deep South Challenge Seminar 12, with Janet Stephenson and Sophie Bond, on the Deep South Youtube channel.
  • The team’s research received huge interest from local government and has presented three online seminars for Local Government New Zealand entitled “Councils, Communities and Climate Change Adaptation”

Webinar 1: Cold feet - Implications for Councils (Janet Stephenson)

Webinar 2: Wet feet – challenges for communities (Sophie Bond and Gradon Diprose)

Webinar 3: Walking together – a way forward. (Janet Stephenson and Sophie Bond)