Student profile: Christina Hanna


13 November 2018

Student profile: Christina Hanna


Managed retreat in Aotearoa New Zealand

A bit about me

I’m from the Waikato, where I undertook a Bachelor of Environmental Planning and worked as a planning consultant before pursuing my PhD in this field.
Outside of studying, you can find me teaching emerging planners at Waikato University, researching sustainability and zero-waste living, and exploring New Zealand’s great outdoors.

My project

My research is focused on natural hazard risk reduction via managed retreat; the strategic relocation of people, assets and activities away from harm. I have explored how managed retreat is applied internationally, and in the New Zealand context (see summary report here). The principal focus of my research is to examine and develop managed retreat governance. Primary data collection has involved in-depth research of key case studies attempting managed retreat, including textual analysis, site visits, and semi-structured interviews of key public and private stakeholders. I have also conducted a survey to understand public perceptions towards managed retreat, and I am currently exploring new opportunities for its application.
Case study research has highlighted a range of procedural constraints in applying managed retreat under the planning system, summarised in this report. Fundamentally, there is an undeniable need for capacity building to better support local government in this space. In terms of the impact on people and communities, my research reinforces that detachment from place is a significant undertaking, requiring immense care, sensitivity, robust engagement, empowerment, and time. But I also recognise the perils of loss of life, loss of amenity and natural character, and increasing maintenance and emergency management costs over the long-term. Managed retreat challenges the presentism bias and requires people and communities to think beyond their time, remedying the legacy decisions of the past and forging a more resilient future.

The complex and contentious nature of managed retreat has proven to be an exciting and challenging research project. I am thankful to participants who have given up their time to share their knowledge and experiences. Spending time with practitioners and members of the public has been essential to understanding the intricacies and implications of managed retreat, reinforcing the need to better understand it.

Next steps

I am currently writing up my thesis, which is due for completion in mid-2019.

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