20 Jun 2021

Building future homes by shoreline not sustainable, researcher warns

1:19 pm on 20 June 2021

A study by New Zealand and European researchers says sea-level rise will have severe consequences, and long-term property planning needs to begin urgently.

In June 2007, the coastal cliffs at Oamaru lost a lot of ground, including a conservation area for blue penguins and the factory seen here.

The government is being urged to work with local councils to ensure vulnerable settlements take coastal retreat seriously. Photo: Murray Hicks.

Study co-author Dr Judy Lawrence from the Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University warned rising sea levels will affect properties in the future, and said New Zealanders should not build their homes close to the shoreline.

Lawrence said New Zealanders often want to build their property near the edge of the water - but they should not.

"We currently have a tendency to build up the land that is right next to the sea, but that has a rather temporary effect."

Opportunities to find solutions to sea-level rise are shrinking, and long-term property planning needs to begin urgently, she said.

The government needs to decrease the risk in vulnerable settlements, Lawrence said, and is being urged to partner with local councils to ensure people take coastal retreat seriously.

"We have to be careful we don't do temporary works that actually raise expectations of further protection in the future, because this will create very, very expensive properties by the sea which really won't be sustainable over the long term. So, it is a conundrum."

Lawrence said that future houses should be built away from danger zones.

"It is very site-specific, but, having said that, if you want robust and resilient settlements and cities in proximity to the sea, they need to be in places that are above the projected sea level rise."

The authors of the study said factors like no-build zones, and a lack of insurance for coastal properties will encourage authorities to find solutions.

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