Student Profile: Sam Olufson



Managed Retreat Components and Costing




A bit about me 


I was born in Auckland but spent ten of my early years growing up in Australia (time shared between Sydney and Perth). During my time in Australia I developed a passion for cricket which has stayed with me ever since. My family moved back to Auckland in early 2007, and I completed high school there. Spending time in these different places grew my interest in geology and physical geography. These interests ultimately provided the motivation to complete my BSc at The University of Auckland in Earth Sciences. While completing my BSc, I developed a strong interest in coastal processes and the management of these dynamic environments.

My honours year (also at The University of Auckland) focussed on the coast, with my dissertation research investigating reflected wave energy following impacting with coastal cliffs. In May 2018, a friend got in touch with me about an MSc opportunity in Wellington, looking into managed retreat of coastal communities. This opportunity came about at the perfect time as I was already considering undertaking my MSc research in the following year. I applied, and began my research in July 2018 here in Wellington.


My project


The risk that coastal hazards pose to coastal communities will increase as sea levels continue to rise. As a result, we need to identify options that enable these communities to adapt to these increased risks. Managed retreat is one of these options. While managed retreat is the only strategy that completely eliminates coastal hazard risk (as it involves the relocation of communities inland from the coast), it is not currently well understood. My research aims to build understanding of managed retreat so it can be more readily considered as a coastal adaptation option.

My research identifies the components of managed retreat, and addresses how these components might be sequenced in time to respond to increasing coastal hazard risk. It also provides guidance for costing managed retreat as a strategy within an economic framework. The framework focusses on the valuation of the costs of the different components.

My work involves combining information on the use of managed retreat with the valuation of climate change adaptation options. I then use this insight to form typologies for developing a managed retreat strategy. These typologies are being tested in semi-structured discussions with practitioners working in the climate change adaptation space. My research is part of the Resilience to Nature’s Challenges ‘Living at the Edge’ programme which is developing tools to support communities living in highly vulnerable coastal settings.


Next steps


Currently, I am finalising the component valuation methodology ahead of having discussions to test the findings. Once these findings have been discussed with relevant informants, I will begin to write up the remainder of my findings. My thesis is due to be handed in during July. The plan following this is to head back to Auckland to spend some time with my family while participating in preseason training ahead of the cricket season with the Hibiscus Coast Cricket Club. I also hope to find employment working in the coastal space.

Living at the edge



By Emma Ryan

In November of 2017, the Edge project was awarded the inaugural Terry Healy Coastal Project Award from the New Zealand Coastal Society. This award is intended to commend a coastal project in New Zealand for its overall commitment to excellence working within the coastal zone. Edge researchers were honoured to receive the award at the New Zealand Coastal Society’s 25thAnnual Conference in Tauranga. This article describes the research activities behind the award that have been ongoing within the Edge project between June 2016 and April 2017.

These research activities have included: adapting and applying the Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways (DAPP) approach in a coastal context in New Zealand through an existing coastal management initiative in Hawke’s Bay; critically reviewing managed retreat as a coastal adaptation option for New Zealand communities; exploring community values, perspectives and attitudes concerning coastal hazards through a survey of the Hawke’s Bay public; advancing knowledge about coastal processes through numerical modelling and field-based studies.


Collectively, these research activities have:

1.      Improved knowledge of coastal processes that impact coastal hazards in the region;

2.      Fostered a wider understanding of coastal hazards and risk to develop decision-making tools and practical and resilient pathways;

3.      Demonstrated best practice stakeholder engagement with communities vulnerable to natural coastal hazards.


The 10-step Decision Cycle from the MfE Coastal Hazards and Climate Change Guidance for Local Government 2017, and how Edge research activities have contributed to the decision cycle in the Hawke’s Bay context (blue text boxes).

The focus on Hawke’s Bay


Hawke’s Bay is one of New Zealand’s hotspots for coastal hazards and is facing increasing risk exposure from climate change, and as a result the region was selected as the initial case study location for the Edge research. This provided a unique opportunity to align the Edge research with ongoing development of the Clifton to Tangoio Coastal Hazards Strategy 2120, a collaborative initiative designed to address management of long-term (100-year) and evolving coastal hazard risk. The Strategy is jointly led by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Napier City Council and Hastings District Council, together with Māori and local community representatives. The Edge research activities were carried out alongside the Strategy to support its development and can be viewed as contributing to different aspects of the 10-step decision cycle presented in the newly revised Ministry for the Environment (MfE) Coastal Hazards and Climate Change: Guidance for Local Government 2017


Contributing to coastal resilience


Findings from the Edge research, including the lessons learned about co-creation of resilience research, are currently being written up and will be made available in international scientific journals over the next year. The Edge project is a unique example in New Zealand of researchers becoming embedded in an existing local government decision-making process and this will yield interesting and informative insights that will not only inform best-practice coastal management in New Zealand, but be of relevance to resilience research and initiatives in general. 


Tracking Radio-Frequency ID-tagged cobbles on Napier’s foreshore as part of an ongoing sediment transport study.
Some of the Edge research team being awarded the inaugural Terry Healy Coastal Project Award.
A beach gravel deposit in the front yard of an abandoned home in Haumoana, Hawke’s Bay, where coastal erosion is a serious issue.


Napier Girls High School students engaging in coastal processes field work at Westshore Beach, Hawke’s Bay, with the help of Edge researchers.
Broken and undermined seawall at Haumoana, Hawke’s Bay after a large swell event in July 2017.

Managed retreat; unpacking the ‘black box’




By Emma Ryan

Low-lying coastal communities around New Zealand will need to start embracing managed retreat as climate change and sea-level rise continue to encroach on and erode our coasts. However, managed retreat remains a ‘black box’ in New Zealand, with few successful examples. The Resilience Challenge ‘Living at the Edge – Transforming the Margins’ Co-creation Laboratory is using insights gained from a critical review of international and national literature on managed retreat at the coast to start to unpack this ‘black box’.


What is managed retreat?


Managed retreat is the calm and planned retreat of communities and infrastructure away from coastal areas before they are severely impacted by coastal hazards, including sea-level rise. The idea is that we need to deliberately move our existing buildings and infrastructure, as well as planned developments, away from at-risk coastal areas before the sea-level rises so much that those assets are destroyed by flooding or erosion or become uninhabitable. Managed retreat is a way for coastal communities to relocate slowly, in a carefully thought-out and planned process, before it’s too late and retreat becomes inevitable, but haphazard and ‘unmanaged’.


The alternative


Other coastal adaptation options involve protecting existing communities with built structures like seawalls and groynes. While these options usually only require a one-off cost for construction and regular maintenance costs, and eliminate the need for communities to relocate, they don’t allow the coast to naturally migrate and they change the natural character of the coast, often exacerbating erosion of the beach and causing downstream effects. Managed retreat, however, involves many staged actions over multiple years or even decades. It is a much more complex solution that requires flexible short and long-term planning tools and approaches. While seemingly more difficult in the short term, managed retreat results in ultimately more stable relocated communities and infrastructure, allowing for natural coastal migration and unexpected change.



As beneficial as engaging in managed retreat before disaster strikes might be, the reality for many coastal communities is that managed retreat is a decision that has been shaped by post-hazard crisis. It can appear a disruptive and costly process that can be hard for a community to commit to if they don’t feel they have to, so often it takes a hazard event like a tsunami or extreme storm to spur them into acceptance of managed retreat.


What makes a community engage in managed retreat?


As part of the Living at the Edge programme researchers investigated approaches to managed retreat that have been undertaken both nationally and internationally in developed countries. They wanted to find out what factors shape the outcomes of managed retreat initiatives. The team found that there are key enablers and constraints that shape the implementation of managed retreat approaches. Legislation and governance drive the managed retreat decision-making processes, and affect whether managed retreat is supported financially and socially. Indeed, international examples of successful managed retreat were all driven and funded by national or federal governments. However, they aren’t the only influencing factor. The nature and history of coastal hazard risk and shoreline management practices can play an important role in influencing a community’s perspectives about and willingness to consider managed retreat processes too. If an area has historically been evacuated and communities relocated after a coastal hazard event, it is much more likely that the existing community will be open to engaging in managed retreat. At the end of the day, managed retreat requires strong community buy-in, and early, in depth engagement with communities. Understanding social and cultural values were highlighted as two very important steps in developing detailed managed retreat strategies.


Ensuring our retreat is managed


Managed retreat might be the mysterious ‘black box’ of coastal adaptation in New Zealand right now, but our regulatory authorities and communities will need to start unpacking it very soon. We need to increase our understanding of managed retreat so that we can get communities on board, as managed retreat clearly requires a collaborative approach and early community engagement, to address the why, where, how and when questions. Ideally, we need to develop staged and adaptive strategies that allow managed retreat to be carried out with enough time before hazard risk thresholds are reached.



Co-creating resilience solutions to coastal hazards



By Emma Ryan


New Zealand’s coastal communities are at increasing risk from natural hazards in the face of climate change. Sea-level rise has waves lapping at their doorsteps, while the threat of tsunami presents itself whenever a nearby fault-line or subduction zone produces and earthquake. We need to plan for and deal with this changing risk now and over the coming century, which will mean developing ways for communities to adapt. However, a major challenge we face is trying to ensure that these adaptation pathways are both effective and well-suited to the coastal communities that they will impact. One of the ways that we are doing this is by co-creating interdisciplinary knowledge on coastal adaptation between scientists, regulatory authorities and communities.


What is co-creation?

Co-creation is where scientists work together with stakeholders and communities to jointly produce research that is useful for everyone. Instead of relying solely on researchers to lead a project, co-creation allows for input from people with a range of knowledge and experience. For example researchers will be familiar with the science, while stakeholders have a good idea of what will and won’t be feasible to implement, and communities have an understanding of what is needed by the people who will be affected by the research. Having these diverse groups shape the research results in a project that is more likely to produce useful outcomes that are beneficial for all parties.

The term co-creation has become prominent in resilience and environmental management research, but there isn’t consensus on how researchers should be going about it. No one quite knows how to most effectively co-create research projects with stakeholders and communities. The Living at the Edge research team have recently utilised a co-creative research approach, and their project is the first example in New Zealand of a co-created research programme that aims to increase the resilience of communities to coastal hazards. By exploring the co-creation processes that occurred during the early stages of their project (i.e. the first seven months) we can tease out some insights into the complexities underpinning co-created resilience research in New Zealand.



Paul Kench, leader of the Edge programme, presenting to stakeholders in a workshop about the co-created start-up phase of the Edge project.

Creating successful co-creation

Co-creation is a versatile and malleable process, and can differ considerably between projects. The key factors that aided in the success of the Edge project’s co-creation process in the early stages were twofold. First, it was important to develop an open-framework initial research proposal. This was developed by an interdisciplinary group of researchers, and allowed flexibility to explore co-creation possibilities. Second, they needed early and direct engagement with local government and other key stakeholders (local communities, key infrastructure and interest groups) in Hawke’s Bay, the chosen case study location for the research. This was achieved through 18 meetings during the seven-month start up period to discuss the Edge research and scope how it could be co-created with stakeholders.


Co-creation requirements

So what did they find? After critically analysing the start-up phase of the research it became clear that co-creation relied on a few important factors:

1. Building trust and familiarity with everyone involved early on.  It was important that stakeholders were familiar with the research team they would be collaborating with, and it was also important that the research funders felt comfortable with the process and trusted the other parties.

2. Having a key contact and core facilitator to be the first point of contact between researchers and stakeholders. This made the process much smoother, encouraging dialogue between the two parties.

3. Having the flexibility to allow for major shifts in the detailed research objectives, proposed research activities and timelines. This included flexibility of the researchers themselves, as well as having adaptive research methodologies, and a non-prescriptive research proposal (which demanded flexibility of the research funder). The whole idea of co-creation is that it involves actors and stakeholders in a part of the process that they would not generally have influence in. This can result in a much more useful end product, but it can also heavily disrupt the status quo. Without flexibility in all aspects of the project the co-creative process won’t be able to reach its full potential.


Allowing co-creation to occur

There is no doubt that co-creation has the potential to positively impact a research project. By allowing stakeholders and communities to have a voice in the planning and implementation of the research we are able to co-produce a product ideally suited to everyone. However, how exactly co-creation is best carried out remains somewhat of a mystery. The Edge team have attempted a co-creative process in their recent project on coastal resilience in the Hawke’s Bay, and have been able to shed some light on some of the process’s complexities. Basically, from the researcher’s perspective, the co-creation requires trust between all parties and flexibility in the research. This will ensure that everyone is able and comfortable to make valuable input and that the resulting project can be adjusted to meet everyone’s expectations and needs.

Student Profile: Ashton Eaves



Building resilience to climate change through modelling managed retreat in a coastal setting



About Ashton



Originally a Cantabrian, Ashton is now living on the West Coast of the South Island, where the nature is raw and the people are friendly. He studied at Lincoln University, where he completed a Master of Applied Science in Environmental Management; and the University of Canterbury where he graduated with Honours in Geography.


Ashton after a good day on the Fox Glacier. Note the glacier wasting indicated by the vegetation line in the background.


After his studies Ashton worked at the West Coast Regional Council in Environmental Science, specifically in hydrology and water quality. In this role he mastered building flood warning systems and processing the endless (and sometimes interrupted) streams of environmental data flowing in. Ashton became very familiar with ADCPs and the Sondes (instruments used to measure water quality, current and depth); although their relationships had its ups and downs, as is the case with fieldwork. After a few years he felt a need to be in more of a decision-making role in coastal management given the short-sighted structural interventions popping up without regard for hydrodynamics, ecosystem evolution, local surfers or  ratepayers’ wallets. At about this time the PhD with the Resilience Challenge’s Living at the Edge team surfaced, requiring some deep contemplation, a risk assessment and some uncertainty analysis.



Ashton’s project

The aim of Ashton’s thesis is to investigate how society can reduce the risk of coastal hazards and adapt to a changing climate. He’s doing this by exploring future scenarios through dynamic simulation modelling of economic systems under managed retreat (movement of structures and communities away from the coast to avoid coastal hazards exacerbated by climate change).

Haumoana in Hawke’s Bay with residential assets within the coastal marine area. Relic private sea walls litter the intertidal zone.

The work will help to enable better informed decision-making around future adaptation pathways by providing an assessment framework to analyse their economic impacts. It aims to discover economically feasible pathways toward managed retreat; although it does not intend to manipulate the direction of managed retreat, or propose an optimal solution. Economic modelling should aid the decision-making process in a supporting and interactive way to demonstrate the credibility of managed retreat as a resilient option to coastal hazards. This is a novel approach to utilising MERIT (Modelling the Economics of Resilient Infrastructure Tool) for slow creep hazards, alignment with the Dynamic Adaptative Policy Pathways (DAPP) process and to reduce uncertainty in decision-making through Robust Decision Making (RDM).

Ashton is enrolled at the University of Auckland and supervised by Professor Paul Kench, Dr Garry McDonald and Associate Professor Mark Dickson. The study area for his research is the coastal environment of Hawke’s Bay from Pandora to Clifton.

The Pandora study area with predicted inundation overlays to a 2120 1% AEP. Modelling future scenarios and policies to avoid coastal hazards and their economic disruptions is key to developing resilient societies.


Next steps

This project will produce multiple planned, localised medium-term adaptation pathways toward managed retreat for vulnerable communities and infrastructure through an economic lens. This will provide clarity with regards to which policies are effective and which are not. The development of Integrated Assessment Models is key to inform the decision-making process and account for the diversity of knowledge and information.

Hawke’s Bay coastal survey 2017



What do you like most about New Zealand’s coastlines? Is it their untouched beauty or that they give you easy access to the beach? We need to understand how New Zealanders feel about our coasts in order to make the best resilience and planning decisions around them. We also need to have insight into how the general public think coastal hazards should be managed. Do you think we should be doing something about sea level rise and tsunami risk? Who should be responsible for driving the changes that would need to be made? Understanding perceptions and values are integral to notions of resilience and coastal planning, yet these social factors are challenging to manage.

The survey


Social scientists from the Resilience Challenge’s Living at the Edge programme wanted to find out how the Hawke’s Bay community felt about their region’s coast and its future. So in April 2017 they conducted a survey of the Hawke’s Bay public about their coast, coastal hazards and adaptation options. The 24 question survey was circulated in Napier and Hastings either in paper form or via the internet. A total of 337 people filled it out, most of them having never participated in public processes regarding coastal management.


Undertaking the Hawke’s Bay coastal survey at the local market in Napier

What they found


The survey revealed that most people have similar values when it comes to the coast. The things about the coast that people considered to be very important were: undeveloped coastal character, coastal appearance, scenic seascapes, and easy access onto the coast. When asked about risks around our coasts, 69% of respondents thought that changes in coastal hazard impacts due to climate change were already happening, and 81% thought that solutions to coastal hazards were required as soon as possible. When asked about various management options for addressing coastal hazard risk, virtually no-one wanted to do nothing (4%), while 54% of respondents believed a mixture of options (varying from seawalls and groynes to dune restoration and beach renourishment) over time would be suitable. Most respondents thought that local/regional/district councils and central government should take primary responsibility for implementing coastal adaptation options. Interestingly, preferences for funding mechanisms of coastal adaptation options varied according to where survey respondents lived (e.g. on the coast, within 5 km of the coast or further inland). Coastal inhabitants preferred funding to come from the local government, while those based 5-10 km from the coastline largely thought funding should come from the private property owners themselves. However, generally respondents believed coastal adaptation options should be funded at a local council level via rates targeted to general Hawke’s Bay region ratepayers or at the central government level.


What this means going forward


There is no doubt that kiwis love the coast. Many of our towns and communities are based in coastal areas as we are drawn to their natural beauty. But these picturesque areas are under increasing threat from natural hazards exacerbated by climate change, and it is important that we take public opinion into account as we go forward with researching and developing adaptation and resilience options.

Results from the Edge team’s survey support the notion that New Zealanders value their coasts, and particularly appreciate being able to access them in their natural state. It also showed that Hawke’s Bay residents are aware of the risks that coastal areas face, and are fairly unanimous in their opinion that something should be done to protect them. Over half of those surveyed favoured a mixed-method approach involving a variety of adaptation options, funded by local councils and central government. These insights will prove invaluable as we go into the next phase of research into coastal resilience actions for the Hawke’s Bay, and will ensure that researchers and stakeholders have an understanding and awareness of how the people of Hawke’s Bay feel about hazard management on their coasts.

Student Profile: Laura Robichaux



The “Implementation Gap” in Coastal Risk Management



Meet Laura

Laura at the beach


Laura Robichaux grew up in South Louisiana in the United States, surrounded by the benefits and risks inherent to coastal living. She has bachelors and master’s degrees in coastal engineering but has slowly trended more towards science. After a bit of time working as a coastal engineer on beaches in Florida and the Turks and Caicos Islands, Laura received an email about an available research position focusing on the nexus of communities and coastal hazards in New Zealand. She applied, accepted and made the move! Currently, she’s knee deep in her doctoral research at the University of Auckland as part of the Living at the Edge component of the Resilience Challenge. In her spare time, Laura likes to do yoga, get outside, watch trash tv, stay politically active and spend time with friends.



What is Laura’s project about?

After growing up in a community plagued by coastal hazards and talking to practitioners there, it became clear to Laura that it wasn’t a “knowledge gap” preventing design of viable projects to reduce coastal risks, but rather it’s an “implementation gap”. Many technically viable projects are abandoned sometime between conceptual design and project implementation.

This gap is driven by a variety of social, institutional, and financial factors that propel or hinder a project as it moves through its conceptual design, public engagement, and final implementation phases. She will use fuzzy cognitive mapping to create visual, (and ideally quantified) conceptual maps to represent each phase of the project, and the factors that influence whether a project is progressed to the next phase or abandoned. Her work endeavours to better understand those influencing factors by examining case studies in two areas (Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand and Terrebonne Parish, United States). The case-studies include a variety of management strategies, and will allow Laura to identify and compare patterns that may drive project outcomes.



Stakeholder engagement meeting in Louisiana
Stakeholder engagement meeting in Louisiana
Stakeholder meeting in Hawke's Bay
Stakeholder meeting in Hawke’s Bay

Laura selected around 20-25 case studies in Hawke’s Bay (NZ) and Terrebonne Parish (USA), which included hard and soft defence, adaptation and retreat projects/policies. Two-thirds of these were completed projects and one-third were abandoned. Over the past 50 years in both Hawke’s Bay and Terrebonne, communities have endeavoured to manage erosion and flooding impacts through several constructed and attempted projects.  These projects have been “in progress” since the 1970s, and there are a variety of legal frameworks and engagement practices that may be interesting to compare. 

The nodes (influencing factors) in each case study’s map set will be defined using qualitative data collected during government and newspaper archival review and then verified during interviews with key players.  The construction of this framework and testing of its suitability for use in comparison of a variety of case studies is the primary academic contribution of Laura’s research.  She also hopes that her research will help to foster more resilient communities by shedding light on the things that might be stopping coastal adaptation and retreat projects from being implemented.



What’s next?

Laura is currently building her conceptual maps and finalizing her case study selection.  The rest of this year will be occupied by a “field season” full of interviews and archive reviews.  She aims to submit her thesis mid-2020, which will contain valuable tools that can be used to increase the likelihood of implementation of sustainable projects.

Coastal management workshops at Napier Girls’ High School



By Emma Ryan

Hawke’s Bay is known for its beautiful, sunny beaches and easily accessible coastline. This draws many people to the area, however it comes with some downsides. The many homes and buildings sitting right next to the sea are highly vulnerable to natural hazards like tsunamis and sea-level rise.


Napier coast from Bluff Hill. © GNS Science


This is why on the 27th of February 2018 a group of year 13 classes from Napier Girls’ High School had a classroom session on coastal hazards, coastal hazard management and how to measure coastal processes.

The young women started their day by learning about coastal hazards and risk and how these risks will change with climate change and sea-level rise in the coming century from a coastal scientist at the University of Auckland. Various coastal adaptation options were also discussed, along with the importance of community engagement in coastal issues. They also met with a panel of local coastal stakeholders to ask them questions about past, present and future coastal management in the region. The stakeholders included a local government asset manager, a local councillor, and a local community board member, as well as Resilience Challenge ‘Edge’ researcher Emma Ryan from the University of Auckland. Following the panel session, the students learned more about the dynamics of, causes of and ways to measure coastal erosion.

Two days later the students were able to put their new skills to the test and headed out into the field to get their hands dirty. A researcher from The University of Auckland accompanied the group on their field trip to Waimarama and Westshore beaches in Hawke’s Bay. The students put to practice the skills they learned in the classroom session, measuring beach profiles to explore beach change over time, measuring wave and currents and measuring sediment size and texture.


Students carrying out field work. Photos: Kate Boersen from East Coast LAB

This exercise was part of a citizen science project that the Resilience Challenge’s Living on the Edge Co-Creation Laboratory have developed together with East Coast LAB (Life at the Boundary) and teachers at Napier Girls’ High School. This is the second time this activity has been carried out, with a classroom of students taking part in the same programme last year. The intention is that the students will build up a coastal dataset over the years if this project continues. This dataset could be used to monitor beach change over time. In any case, the citizen science project is a useful way to get students interested and actively involved in their local coastline and coastal management