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Allan

Allan Young

Year of Award: 2015 Award State: New South Wales Transport And Infrastructure > Urban Planning And Design
To identify the reasons for success or failure in relocation schemes for at-risk coastal communities - USA, Barbados, UK
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Rob Moore, Senior Policy Analyst with the US Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has put it as plainly and simply as I have found anywhere. When it comes to dealing with coastal properties known to be at risk, Moore says “We should be offering assistance to move to higher ground before they run out of options, not after.” (Quoted in Flavelle 2017). 

If that is the goal, then we have a bit of work to do first.   

The consensus throughout my research is that before anything else is done, we need to fix market distortions and inequities. This means 

  • Major policy reform for the National Flood Insurance Program to bring it to a more actuarial basis and, more importantly, to stop incentivising policy holders to repeatedly rebuild in chronically at risk coastal areas; or avoidance of such schemes if not already in place.
  • Approvals for protection works need to incorporate and address all of the externalities of hard coastal protection work, such as erosion displacement.
  • Restricting or reducing the prevalence of government buy outs based on 'pre‐hazard' values and premium‐to‐market prices.
  • Enabling and mobilising private sector capital. 

Once there is an operating environment which is more receptive to schemes which involve relocation, the marketplace for relocation can be developed.

If there is money available within government for relocation schemes, that money is better directed at managed realignment schemes which have proven to be an effective use of public funding as a response to coastal hazards. Realignment schemes offer a number of advantages over 'normal' buy backs.

There are other relocation methods, such as rolling easements or relocation assistance packages, which could be developed and deployed, provided the market distortions which bias against relocation can be mitigated.

Importantly, we need to recognise that a slow and gradual adjustment is preferable to a sharp correction. Economies, and people within them, cope with change much better when the transformation is evolutionary, not revolutionary. All of my hosts would agree that deferring the adjustment only makes the situation worse but they also recognise the political realities.

We have a good idea our future coastal management challenges, and relocation will be an essential part of the necessary adjustment. The research points to a range of simple measures which can also be implemented immediately to bolster the prospects of relocation schemes. Matters such as shorter periods for permitted temporary works can be quite ordinary regulatory reforms which will help address biases such as path dependency which generally impede any subsequent relocation options. Small non‐disruptive steps can also be taken to create a marketplace that is ready for relocation, such as requiring disclosure about coastal hazards. The overall message has been ... start now.

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