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GEOG474 Coastal Management


New Zealand appears, at first glance, to have avoided many of the worst excesses of coastal development and resource exploitation. In fact, the coasts of New Zealand bear little resemblance to their natural state before the arrival of Polynesians. We share a range of problems with similar developed nations. Deforestation and de-vegetation, displacement of native species by exotic plants and animals, unregulated waste disposal, pollution of estuaries and harbors, un-managed subdivision and development, careless fishing and over-fishing, have degraded the biology and biodiversity of coastal and marine environments. Sand and gravel mining, water abstraction and sand/gravel extraction from rivers, accelerated coastal erosion due to modified coastal sediment budgets, reclamation and inappropriate coastal engineering works have significantly changed the natural character of our coasts. These impacts were not inevitable, but arose from an ignorance of the geomorphic processes that shape New Zealand’s coasts and which are a fundamental to coastal ecosystems.

This paper explores three important themes in coastal geomorphology and coastal management: the development and degradation of aeolian systems (and the restoration of these systems); processes and patterns in the evolution of rocky coasts characterized by cliffs and rock platforms and; thirdly, late-Holocene barrier evolution in relation to changing patterns of sediment supply and eustatic sea-level. Within these themes there is scope to explore both geomorphic processes and social processes of coastal management; in fact the two are usually intertwined. However, we propose it is necessary to understand the former to achieve good coastal management.

This paper will appeal to students with an interest in the natural character of coasts and the link between coastal science and coastal management. What do we know about coasts? How is this knowledge used in coastal management and what should be our research priorities? We are fortunate at the University of Otago to have ready access to a wide range of temperate coasts - fiords, coastal barriers, sand and gravel beaches, rocky shores, cliffed coasts and transgressive dune systems, which are both remarkably natural and, in many cases, remarkably modified. We have opportunities to explore processes of environmental restoration, an emerging theme in coastal management. This paper will also appeal to students who enjoy fieldwork and discovering new and remote places. You will be required to participate in a group research project in one of the key theme areas (aeolian geomorphology, rocky coast geomorphology or barrier development). This research is the core element of the paper and will be completed during a 5-6 day residential field camp.

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An advanced examination of coastal management in New Zealand and Australia. Emphasis is placed on issues associated with sandy coasts, including hazard management, invasive species, subdivision and development, and conservation management.

This paper will be of interest to both Arts and Science graduates who wish to advance their specific interests in coastal systems and costal management. It examines processes of coastal management in New Zealand and beyond. It also examines the impact of people on coastal systems, options for increasing coastal sustainability and resilience, and emerging themes in coastal management. The course focuses on certain issues - including coastal hazard management, invasive species management, the effect and effectiveness of engineering structures, planning for the global climate crisis - but also provides opportunities for students to explore their own interests.

Paper title Coastal Management
Paper code GEOG474
Subject Geography
EFTS 0.1667
Points 20 points
Teaching period Semester 1 (On campus)
Domestic Tuition Fees (NZD) $1,409.28
International Tuition Fees Tuition Fees for international students are elsewhere on this website.

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PLAN 436
Students should have an undergraduate degree in Arts, Science or Commerce, ideally with a Geography component.
Teaching staff

Course Co-ordinator: Associate Professor Mike Hilton

Other staff: Associate Professor Wayne Stephenson

Paper Structure
  • Principles of coastal management
  • New Zealand law and coastal policy
  • Planning for coastal resilience
  • Coastal monitoring to improve understanding and management
  • Extreme events and coastal hazard management
  • Engineering and other options for managing coastal hazards
  • Invasive species management and biodiversity conservation
  • Coastal problems and issues

Assessment is 50% internal (on-going during the semester) and 50% external (final examination).

Teaching Arrangements
The paper is taught through lectures, field trips, seminars, individual research and a research project.

Textbooks are not required for this paper.

Readings on key topics are recommended.

Graduate Attributes Emphasised
Global perspective, Communication, Information literacy, Research, Teamwork.
View more information about Otago's graduate attributes.
Learning Outcomes

Students who successfully complete this paper will engage with the following questions:

  • How have people modified coastal systems - in the past and emerging issues?
  • What laws, policy and regulations exist to address these issues?
  • Are these legal mechanisms effective?
  • What non-regulatory methods are used to address coastal problems?
  • How do we monitor the condition of the coast?
  • How should communities respond to the global climate crisis?
  • What is the nature of certain types of coasts and how are they vulnerable to change?
  • What efforts are being made to restore degraded coastal systems?

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Semester 1

Teaching method
This paper is taught On Campus
Learning management system


Stream Days Times Weeks
L1 Monday 15:00-16:50 9-14, 16-22
Thursday 10:00-11:50 9-14, 16-22