Major $13m project to focus on predicting impacts of sea-level rise

Research project will improve ability to predict sea-level rise and the impacts it will have around New Zealand.

Waves washing over rocky shore

A major research programme led by Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington to improve understanding of the impacts of sea-level rise on coastal communities and infrastructure has received $13 million.

Funding for the programme, Te Ao Hurihuri: Te Ao Hou—Our Changing Coast, is being provided by the 2022 Endeavour Fund administered by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Programme co-leader Professor Tim Naish, from the University’s Antarctic Research Centre, says the research will improve the ability to predict sea-level rise and the impacts it will have around the country.

“We know the sea around Aotearoa is rising but we don’t yet know enough about how coastal regions will be affected to ensure our adaptation measures will be effective and appropriate,” he says.

A key focus of the project is on improving the models currently used to understand the effects of sea-level rise, such as coastal flooding and groundwater salination, and risks to key infrastructure and cultural sites.

Professor Naish says the research will produce a new, publicly-available online tool showing sea-level projections, at 100 metre spacing, along the New Zealand coastline. Risk assessment will be possible at the scale of individual houses and buildings, he says.

Estimates provided by the new tool will also include the probability of major earthquakes causing changes in land elevation along the coast.

“We know that 50cm of sea-level rise is unavoidable by 2100 and we could see up to 2.5m in some parts of the country. The aim of this project is to help ensure coastal impacts are well-understood so decisions about how we manage coastal areas and adapt to sea-level rise are based on the very best research.”

Co-leader Associate Professor Richard Levy says the programme involves a multi-disciplinary team including researchers from GNS Science, University of Auckland, University of Canterbury, University of Waikato, Oceanum Ltd, Takiwa Ltd, and Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi.

The research team will also work with central and local government agencies, iwi, and community organisations, he says. The project will begin in October and run until 2027.

The University has also received $10.3m from the Endeavour Fund for five other projects, as follows:

  • $6.3m for research to investigate increasing electricity generation and industrial heat from existing and greenfields geothermal resources, principal investigator Jim Johnston
  • $1m for research to investigate antibodies and immunotherapy to control viruses and varroa parasites in honey bees, principal investigator Phil Lester
  • $1m for research to investigate detection of abnormal chromosomes (aneuploidy) in embryo secretions to improve the success rate of IVF, principal investigator Janet Pitman
  • $1m for research to investigate plant-based chemicals for protecting crops and ecosystems, principal investigator Monica Gerth
  • $1m for research to investigate development of an electromagnetic terahertz-wave emitter for applications in spectroscopy, principal investigator Simon Granville.