Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Artful engagement with Sea Level Rise in the Waiwhetū catchment

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posted on 2023-10-01, 09:34 authored by Johannah Kearney

The space along a coastal edge is a wonderous and vital community space. With accelerated rates of Sea Level Rise (SLR), the impacts of climatic change and increasing intensity of flooding in an already pressured coastal environment will require critical infrastructural designs of coastal armouring. Understanding local impacts of Sea-Level rise will help to inform strategies for community resiliency and selection of pathways for planning for adaption. Te Awa Waiwhetū stream runs on the eastern side of Te Awa Kairangi ki Tai (Lower Hutt Valley). This thesis uses design-based, experimental, and affective methodologies to describe and make sense of the effects of SLR on this catchment. Photography, Geospatial information, and desktop analysis were ground-truthed through site explorations.

Underpinning the journey to understanding local impacts of SLR, are three key research questions: 1. How can design express hydrological change, in small ways that prime for larger change?

2. In what ways can process and design contribute to Community Resiliency?

3. How can design celebrate moments where you can experience water levels varying?

There has been comprehensive work done internationally, with a particular focus on flood resiliency through creative modalities within the landscape architectural discourse. The precedents study notes similar research in Aotearoa. There is an opportunity to apply these existing international and domestic studies in the specific context of Te Awa Waiwhetū stream.

With the three key research questions at the forefront, this research will employ a lens informed by Corner’s Ecology of Human Creativity towards infrastructural adaptation in Te Awa Waiwhetū.

To do so, this body of work will visualise climate change using the porosity of art and its potential to inform design. This could then lead to reviewing and collating existing form geography and material, in projects and processes, that in their own way ‘artfully engage’ with hydrological change.

It is anticipated that existing studies cannot be applied directly in the context of Te Awa Waiwhetū. This may be due to the historic disconnect in Aotearoa, meaning overseas trends and processes may not enable the celebration and experience of water that is unique to New Zealand. It is likely that there will also be opportunities to explore how the ‘global, abstract problem’ can be applied to the local and site-specific knowledge of Te Awa Waiwhetū stream. It may be that such exploration could lend itself to the dissemination of information, typically found in a scientific context, to be circulated in a different form, being through creative modalities.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline

Landscape Architecture

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Landscape Architecture

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

4 Experimental research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Chanse, Victoria