Ruawai/Raupo district has been chosen as Northland's first location to pilot new Northland climate change adaptation work.
The Ruawai and Raupo location was formally chosen by Kaipara District Council (KDC) on Wednesday.
"We're leading the way," Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith said.
Smith said the rigorous analytical process KDC used to select Ruawai/Raupo from among three potential options was a useful tool that Northland's other district councils could also use.
Far North District Council (FNDC) is working towards choosing its pilot locations (likely one in each council ward) next year. Whangārei District Council will appoint a programme manager then also look at selecting its pilot location next year.
Northland Regional Council is supporting the three district councils in an increasingly cohesive, region-wide approach to dealing with one of New Zealand's most pressing issues – how coastal communities deal with the increasing impacts of climate change into the future.
The groundbreaking pilot looks at how community adaptation to climate change might work.
KDC climate change adviser Katy Simon said the council had committed to starting community adaptation planning with coastal communities exposed to increasing coastal hazards and significant climate impacts.
She said the pilot prioritised the Kaipara location with the highest degree of exposure to coastal hazards based on current Northland Regional Council (NRC) coastal hazards mapping. NRC has also committed resource to supporting the pilot.
Some parts of Ruawai flats are slightly above current sea levels, others half a metre below. Stopbanks of typically about three metres protect Ruawai from the ever-rising sea. Some exposed stopbanks have been topped up to four metres.
Simon said the next step would be confirming project scope and design. A detailed work programme would be developed along with a communication and engagement plan.
A Raupo/Ruawai community panel would be put together. Staff would present information around the governance structure for this work, including council representatives to be on that community panel, to KDC's March council meeting next year.
Simon said a community-based adaptive pathways process would be the focus of the Raupo/Ruawai pilot. It would involve ongoing, extensive engagement with communities in the pilot area.
She said working with Raupo/Ruawai provided an opportunity to work through existing community concerns around coastal hazards and future planning.
Raupo drainage committee chairman Ian Beattie this afternoon welcomed in principle the selection of the settlements as the pilot climate change adaptation location.
He said it was important however, to now see more detail around how that pilot location adaptation work might evolve.
The new NRC flooding hazard maps show increasing challenge for the settlement in the face of rising sea levels. The Ruawai community was the first in Northland to see the maps – at a Raupo drainage committee meeting in Ruawai in May.
An NRC spokesperson told the meeting the government required councils to take a 1.2-metre sea level rise into account, with emphasis on a potential bigger 1.5-metre increase.
Simon said Raupo/Ruawai was Te Uri o Hau Settlement Trust's preferred pilot location. The trust had also confirmed Naumai Marae, Te Kowhai Marae, and Parirau Marae were ready to start adaptation planning.
She said Te Roroa representatives have been informed about the process and opportunities around future engagement.
Ruawai's $14 million Raupo flood protection and drainage network covers 8700 hectares, managing flooding risk via 70 kilometres of stopbanks, 140 kilometres of canals and drains, 52 floodgates and a flood pump.
The NRC maps show a bigger area of coastal flooding risk across Ruawai in a climate change-influenced future.
KDC already has consideration of sea level rise risk in particular requirements in place for new Ruawai house building.
Baylys Beach was the second of three potential pilot locations for the new climate change adaptation work. The third was Pahi/Whakapirau and surrounds.
Ruawai/Raupo was chosen after standardised assessments across the three locations saw it come out as the top-ranked choice.
The Raupo/Ruawai pilot will be used to help other coastal Kaipara communities deal with climate change adaptation into the future.
Cr Mark Vincent said it was important the pilot did not receive resourcing over and above other communities that might follow.
Cr Eryn Wilson-Collins said the pilot was positive.
"I'm super-excited to see this progressing," Wilson-Collins said.