Sea Level Rise Options Analysis

Wellington City Council commissioned this report as an input into the Council’s wider analysis and planning work. The Council’s efforts to understand the impacts of climate change are driven by the need to protect and enhance the city’s prosperity.

Find out what sea level rise might look like

This map helps tell the story of what sea level rise might look like at the high tide mark around Wellington. Use this tool to identify what areas will get wet first and see what an extreme sea rise will do to our capital city.  

Sunrise on the morning of the opening of the Oruaiti Reserve in Seatoun.

Legislation requires the Council to consider risks and natural hazards. The challenge is to understand the timeframes, scale, when to act and how to plan for action. 

Scientific research is driven by questions. While there are still ‘uncertainties’ about some aspects of climate change, the basic questions are well understood and we know the sea level is rising.

Planning in the face of uncertainty is not new for Wellington. For example, our building standards provide a high level of earthquake strengthening, even though we do not know when the next big earthquake will happen.

A risk-based approach

In this context, the report on sea-level rise by Tonkin & Taylor for Wellington City Council is a necessary input into understanding climate change and the implications for decision-making. It is consistent with approaches being developed in New Zealand and other countries.

The risk-based approach is important. We must consider how the risk compares to other hazards or risks we face and how they connect. From a risk management perspective, a range of scenarios needs to be looked at, including higher-end sea level scenarios. Higher scenarios for sea-level rise are important for understanding the possible implications for long-term economic resilience and growth.



Sea Level Rise Options Analysis (10.3MB PDF)

Working with the community 

This report provides us with good input for considering the impacts on coastal property and infrastructure in Wellington, and for talking with businesses and the community. It broadly covers cultural, economic, environmental and social values, looking at the potential impacts for different scenarios.

The report also explores

  • links between sea-level rise and other hazards
  • going beyond storm surge to include potential changes in groundwater levels
  • greater risk of liquefaction
  • more extensive floods.

With broad and widely dispersed impacts, community involvement at all levels is of utmost importance. Approaches to the issue of sea-level rise will be developed over time with residents and businesses taking into account local preferences.

As a council, we’re already working with the community through our city planning and through initiatives arising from the 2016 Low Carbon Capital Plan. These include the electric vehicle charging programme, the Low Carbon Challenge, and engaging with the community on ways to green our expected urban growth.

This report provides a starting point for Wellingtonians to consider what is important to our city, and what we need to think about to plan for the future.