It is not going to be easy to envision and predict climate change, says Dr Silvia Serrao-Neumann.
However, she says, people are moving away from trying to control nature and towards trying to work with it.
Speaking at an event at the University of Waikato campus on Durham St yesterday for World Town Planning Day, Serrao-Neumann, who is a senior lecturer in environmental planning at the University of Waikato, explained how councils and governments could work with their communities to best plan their urban environments while taking climate change into account.
"Future change is here," she said.
"It's not going to go away."
Serrao-Neumann said implications for urban planning included changes in natural hazards such as flooding, storms and accelerating sea-level rise.
This meant making buildings weatherproof, including flood-proof, in coastal communities.
However, she said that the idea of "proofing" buildings could be controversial, especially when it came to the idea of exactly how safe they were, because some members of society still believed humans could control nature.
"Most of the time we need to have a really nasty event to have some action," she said.
It was important to bring people from different sectors together while urban planning so different perspectives were considered, she said.
"Because it is a local decision, it's important to have the local community involved in it."
Serrao-Neumann said while there were people who would be vocal if they were against an idea, she tried to put people in groups to get an idea of the whole community during consultations around urban planning.
Karyn Sinclair, the chairwoman of the New Zealand Planning Institute, said 90 per cent of Kiwis were living in towns and cities and it was more important than ever to create liveable urban communities and to focus on urban resilience.
"The challenges of climate change, our ageing population, affordable housing, transport, water quality and infrastructure add new dimensions to urban planning, and ultimately will have a significant impact on the future direction of our cities."