Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Vulnerable Territories: The Perpetually Shifting Edge

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Version 2 2023-09-25, 02:09
Version 1 2021-12-09, 01:49
posted on 2023-09-25, 02:09 authored by Wellwood, Joseph

New Zealand’s coastline is rapidly receding. The increased threat of rising sea levels continues to erode the shore line causing extensive and irreparable damage to thousands of coastal properties, often dismantling communities and the kiwi dream of living near the ocean. With global temperatures continuing to rise, all of our coastal communities are at risk. The current measure of response to this issue is through managed retreat, the removal and relocation of all ‘at risk’ buildings in coastal hazard zones. While this approach is successful in preserving the physical structures, it remains an undesirable solution that forces homeowners to abandon their community and the coastline for the safety of higher ground. The retreat is hampered among debate within the effected regions as the forced detachment of long standing communities often results in the loss of ‘sense of place’ that living within a coastal community enables.  This thesis proposes that Haumoana in Hawkes Bay offers the fitting location to introduce an alternative coastal community model that actively responds to the impending hazards whilst retaining the societal poetics. Situated just south of the nearby communities of Te Awanga and Haumoana, two of the most at-risk coastal regions in New Zealand that are currently facing the prospect of dismantlement. The site was specifically chosen due to the fact that erosion is predicted to diminish half its usable land over the next century, this thesis will investigate the potential risks to the respective coastline, the role that this would play in an adaptive community, and the possible design options that can respond and enhance a future sustainable landscape.  This thesis argues that a coastal community can be designed to actively adapt and respond to the threat of erosion rather than being dismantled through retreat; that by adopting design principles that protect the land on which they are placed, the coastal hazards of the region can be lessened; and that an adaptive community model can be achieved whilst retaining the ‘sense of place’ that coastal community’s exhibit.  The thesis proposes that this can be achieved by incorporating and reinforcing natural features of the coast into the architectural design at various scales; accommodating for, and adapting to the imminent threat of erosion; and by invoking principles of sustainable design in company with adaptive planning and resilient design, thereby pushing the standards of coastal planning beyond typical practice.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY-SA 4.0

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

Victoria University of Wellington Unit

University Library

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

Wellington School of Architecture


Wilhelm, Hans-Christian