The Urban Impacts Toolbox: An overview
Climate change is likely to increase the frequency and intensity of weather-related hazards such as flooding, heavy rainfall and drought as well as coastal hazards such as coastal inundation and erosion. Many of New Zealand’s urban areas, due to their location near the coast and/or on major rivers and their reliance on ageing infrastructure, are particularly vulnerable to these natural hazards and therefore to the likely impacts of climate change. It is therefore vital that local and regional government, upon whom the task of protecting urban communities from such hazards primarily falls, are better able to understand and evaluate these potential future hazards, the associated risks to infrastructure and buildings, and the options available to maintain a sufficient level of protection and service. This paper describes a new suite of guidance and decision tools that have been designed to enhance the understanding of the potential impacts of climate change in urban environments in New Zealand. A web-based Toolbox is presented, which has been produced to package the tools in a logical risk assessment-based structure. We also present a decision-making framework for climate change adaptation in urban environments which steps users through a staged process of assessing priorities, identifying high risk areas, selecting risk-reduction options, and establishing a preferred solution. The paper is the first of three papers published in this special issue. The second and third papers demonstrate the use of some of the tools described in the Toolbox. Paper 2 steps through an analysis of changes to future rainfall and sea levels and the effect on flood peaks and inundation. It also demonstrates a hazards risk model, Riskscape, which can estimate the impact of flooding on buildings and infrastructure (e.g. in terms of repair costs etc.). Paper 3 then looks at methods to narrow down and evaluate adaptation options to reduce the effect of flooding. Both papers use the town of Westport as a case study example.