Here are some inspiring examples of councils engaging with their communities about climate change, from the New Zealand Coastal Society’s Special Publication 5. (The image above is from the cover of this publication.)


Auckland is developing a series of Shoreline Adaptation Plans for its council-owned land and assets. The first of the 22 plans is the pilot Whangaparoa Shoreline Adaptation Plan, which was launched in 2021.

Development of the Plan

Three workstreams contributed to the development of this Plan – technical assessment by council officers, mana whenua engagement (through seven hui) and community engagement.

A Community Reference Group of 10 people was established to carry out detailed discussion on the Plan. Applications were sought across a range of community networks, with agreed criteria to ensure a fair selection process.

Council also carried out public outreach events and digital engagement, which allowed people to provide feedback via an interactive map. The Council found that in-person engagement was a valuable way to raise initial awareness of the project and encouraged further engagement through other channels.

Establishing four key options

Establishing four high-level strategies at the beginning of the process also helped with community buy-in before beginning the long-term climate adaptation planning process recommended by the Ministry for the Environment (called Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways, or DAPP for short).

These four strategies are:

  • No active intervention (natural processes continue)
  • Limited intervention (some works undertaken to extend the life of existing assets)
  • Hold the line (retaining the existing coastal edge through nature-based options such as beach nourishment or through hard structures)
  • Managed retreat (moving assets and activities away from hazard-prone areas over time).

Next steps

Specific levels of service, actions and funding will be included in asset management plans to implement the direction in the Shoreline Adaptation Plans. Management responses may include enhanced maintenance of some assets to extend their useful life, and decommissioning and replacement of other assets with naturalised alternatives.


Dunedin City Council’s engagement process to develop the St Clair–St Kilda Coastal Plan was based on three principles: inclusivity, sequencing and being iterative. It has resulted in more than 2,300 people providing input over a two-year period.


Dunedin City Council’s engagement methods included beach intercept surveys, printmaking workshops, and presentations and workshops at schools and the university. Hearing from school and university students has been a priority, recognising they will be the most affected by the long-term consequences of climate change.


During the pre-engagement phase the team reached out to community groups to gauge interest and seek feedback on how different groups would like to be involved.

The focus of engagement has been on developing ongoing conversations, rather than carrying out one-off consultation processes. This has meant responding to people’s concerns about public access, safety and coastal hazard management first. Seeing these matters being addressed built trust and helped people to move on to conversations about the longer-term hazards.


The team has carried out ongoing reflection on who they are hearing from and who they are not, and what else could be done to provide opportunities for these groups. Reviews of feedback received along the way also led to new technical assessments to inform upcoming conversations.

Hawke’s Bay, Wharekawa Coast and Coromandel Peninsula

All three of these climate adaptation projects included:

  • a community panel set up to identify preferred adaptation pathways
  • a committee made up of elected members and iwi representatives
  • a technical advisory group made up of council staff and key stakeholders.

Focus on adaptation thresholds

The community engagement work has focused on setting adaptation thresholds – which means deciding on the conditions the community wants to avoid. These thresholds then guide what actions need to be taken (and when).

Examples of adaptation thresholds include:

  • insurance retreat
  • loss of public amenity
  • loss of public access (to the coast, residential areas, or community services)
  • loss of private access
  • excessive maintenance costs
  • loss of coastal habitat
  • unsustainable levels of service (of assets)
  • disruptions to residents and tourism sectors
  • impacts on civil defence emergency response capability.

The more technical elements of the DAPP system (such as deciding what to monitor, and what the triggers will be to take action) are likely to be developed by council staff rather than by the community panels

More details

More details about these projects are available here:

Planning a community engagement process?

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