New Zealand's 11,000km of coastline is on the front line of climate change, and an author has said the rest of the country can look to Hawke's Bay to see how it should be managed.

Neville Peat, who spent 12 years working in local government in Otago, has released a book called Invading the Sea: Coastal Hazards and Climate Change in Aotearoa New Zealand.

"The book is a record of where we've been and where we ought to be going in terms of coastal hazards work.

He says New Zealand's coastal management strategy is fragmented, split between 63 different councils.

Advertisement

"Successive governments have just failed to give clear direction to those councils."

"I have to say Hawke's Bay region is one of the better served for councils endeavouring to get on the front foot for coastal hazards management."

He said the three main councils in Hawke's Bay - the regional council, Hastings District and Napier City councils - were focused on looking at the issue and finding solutions.

"In a sense the Hawke's Bay region is a pilot for other parts on New Zealand in terms of working out solutions."

He said the councils were considering a fund which would be set up for the future, so the financial load of hazards was spread fairly.

He said central government needed to look at a natural disaster fund which covered coastal hazards.

"It's about intergenerational equity."

He said councils tended to be wary of entering into compensation for coastal hazard management.

"They don't want to open up a big Pandora's box of liability."

"That's why I think central government needs to come to the party on it."

He was surprised to learn how much low-lying land was around Ahuriri, which had 1300 houses within half a metre of the high tide in Napier.

He said it was important to remember the coastline was the front line of climate change.

"When we talk climate change, you think mostly of all the effort going into trying to reduce greenhouse gases and the warming of the whole planet."

"What's often overlooked is our coastline, and we have one of the largest coastlines in the world. In our country, that's where the front line is."