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Gaining public input on natural hazard risk and land-use planning: A case study from New Zealand

Margaret Kilvington (Independent Social Research, Evaluation & Facilitation, Christchurch, New Zealand)
Wendy Saunders (GNS Science Ltd, Lower Hutt, New Zealand)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 9 January 2019

Issue publication date: 5 March 2019



Risk-based land-use planning is a major tool for reducing risks and enabling communities to design for and mitigate against natural hazard events. Moving towards a risk-based approach to land-use planning involves changes in planning and public communication practice for local government agencies. However, talking to people about how decisions made in the present may increase risk in the future is notoriously hard and requires carefully crafted public discussion. The paper aims to discuss these issues.


This paper explores the case of a local government planning agency (the Bay of Plenty Regional Council (BOPRC)) who adopted a risk-based approach to the development of their regional policy statement (RPS). The BOPRC designed an innovative approach to talking to their communities about future land use and acceptable risk based on a framework and toolkit of resources (the RBPA – risk-based planning approach).


The process addressed several common challenges of risk engagement for land-use planning as it: integrated input from policy and planning professionals, technical experts and community development specialists across local government organisations; used locally relevant community sessions that developed participants’ understanding of risk; linked ideas about risk tolerance to potential policy implications for local government; and built capacity amongst participants for judgment about risk acceptability and options for safeguard.

Research limitations/implications

The process met public engagement planning criteria for robustness, i.e., valid process design and interpretation of feedback, and transparent integration into the final decisions. It enabled public views on natural hazards to be evaluated alongside technical input and incorporated into final decisions on thresholds for acceptable and unacceptable risk.


The approach taken has made significant contribution to risk engagement and land-use planning practice in New Zealand. In 2017, the BOPRC risk-based approach to their RPS received a national award from the New Zealand Planning Institute for contribution to advancing best practice. In 2018, it received further recognition through the Commonwealth Association of Planners Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Commonwealth.



Many people contributed to this work, including policy and planning, Māori Liaison, community development and communications professionals from the Bay of Plenty region. The authors would like to acknowledge the work of Martin Butler, Gerard Willis, Stephanie Macdonald, Kerry Gosling and Namouta Poutasi.The authors would also like to thank the “It’s Our Fault” programme ( for funding the review of the Bay of Plenty case and the reviewers of this paper.


Kilvington, M. and Saunders, W. (2019), "Gaining public input on natural hazard risk and land-use planning: A case study from New Zealand", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 28 No. 2, pp. 228-244.



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