Conference paper
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New Zealand has a rich history of natural hazard events, including flooding, coastal erosion, tsunami, volcanic eruption, earthquakes, and landslides. In many instances, these natural hazards have determined the location of our towns and cities, including relocating our towns when the risk becomes intolerable.

Our planning history provides the opportunity to learn from past events, and ensure future planning remains sustainable by not increasing risks to people and property. Historic planning decisions have led to ‘legacy’ planning, where many councils are having to balance the relationship between protecting existing development that has occurred over the previous decades - and century - and managing the risks posed by natural hazards to these developments. However, have we learnt anything from our planning history in terms of where and how we develop our towns and cities? Or are we continuing to provide ‘legacy planning’ for the future?

Examples will be provided of historical natural hazard planning, highlighting how planning for natural hazards has determined how New Zealand’s towns and cities have developed. Several historical planning decisions will be explored including:

  • The 1840 European settlement of Britannia, located on the banks of the Hutt River, and the subsequent relocation to Wellington;
  • The gazetting of the major active volcanoes in the North Island as national parks in 1887, which exemplifies avoidance planning;
  • The Totara Park subdivision in Upper Hutt, planned in the 1960s just as plate tectonic theory was emerging, which avoids the Wellington Fault;
  • The Tahunanui slump in Nelson, which was developed in the 1970s and is monitored for ground movement; and
  • The lessons that are currently being learnt from Christchurch from the 2010- 2011 earthquake sequence.

Using these and other modern day examples, we will explore whether we have learnt any lessons regarding how we plan our town and cities around natural hazards, or whether we are repeating previous mistakes and creating a new generation of “legacy planning”.

Publication Details
Source title:
Proceedings of the 12th Australasian Urban History Planning History Conference 2014