A rising tide of adaptation action: Comparing two coastal regions of Aotearoa-New Zealand
journal contributionposted on 29.04.2021, 01:59 by P Schneider, Judith Lawrence, B Glavovic, E Ryan, P Blackett
Diverse and contested local interests and the complexity of climate change make adaptation to climate change risks at the coast challenging. Even in similar settings, adaptation experiences and prospects can differ markedly. Why? This paper provides empirical evidence of comparative adaptation experiences in two regions of Aotearoa-New Zealand - the Coromandel Peninsula and the Hawke's Bay coast. We critically examine how local barriers and enablers influence the trajectory of adaptation in two regions that face similar risks, have essentially the same institutional architecture, and yet have had very different adaptation experiences. We investigate the situational differences and similarities, and their implications for adaptation in each region. We found that the evolution of adaptation is shaped by the perceptions of the actors, especially local authority leaders, and opportunities that arise at a context-specific point in time. Such perceptions and opportunities can amount to barriers in one location and enablers in another. Growing concern about coastal hazard risk, improving levels of trust and legitimacy, community engagement, and collaborative governance were key to innovative long-term adaptation planning in the Hawke's Bay but their absence has led to short-term business as usual practices in the Coromandel. Yet even in the latter case, change is underway and longer-term adaptation planning is commencing. We conclude that there is a ‘rising tide’ of adaptation action in the face of escalating climate risk – with long-term planning and local action triggered by cumulative hazard experience and / or extreme events that raise public concern and make climate change salient to local community members and leaders. Both local and regional interests and concerns shape local response appetites. Proactive, local authority-led engagement and long-term strategic planning are foundational for mobilizing effective adaptation responses. Enabling national policy, guidance and institutional provisions are key to prompting and sustaining such efforts, and to facilitating broad consistency in locally appropriate responses. Notwithstanding efforts to foster locally appropriate but nationally aligned adaptation responses, our research shows that coastal communities and their local authorities follow pathways consistent with local risk appetites, understanding about climate change, and the political will and capacity of local government to mobilize key governance actors around long-term strategic planning.