Councils grappling with coastal erosion are warning the Government it can't afford to continue its hands-off approach.
They say the lack of a consistent framework is making councils vulnerable to legal challenges by residents unhappy with their coastal management plans.
President of Local Government New Zealand, Lawrence Yule said the 68 territorial authorities each have a different approach to the problem and the Government needs to take a stronger lead.
"We actually can't afford as a country to sit on our hands and say actually this is all too hard. While this sea level rise and other events creep up on us because we'll only be in a worse situation in 30, 50 or 100 years in dealing with it."
Graham Painter who is President of the Omaha Beach Community, north of Auckland, said the current system for analysing risk is too theoretical.
"You can't just sit in an office in the middle of the city with a computer screen in front of you and come up with some conclusions. You have to actually start with the reality - what is the reality of the location which you're dealing with?"
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates the sea level will rise between 25 centimetres and 91 centimetres by the end of the century.