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Coastal erosion project for WSP New Zealand

Coastal erosion project for WSP New Zealand

Many coastal cities around the world are threatened by rising sea levels. Their citizens need to make some important decisions as they prepare for the future.

WSP New Zealand was engaged by Dunedin City Council to help develop a plan for managing the city’s coastline. The plan was in response to serious erosion to the city’s beaches caused by rising sea levels, which is expected to threaten low-lying parts of the city eventually.

Central to the project was community participation in the decision-making process. This participation included understanding citizens’ preferences with respect to how the beaches should be managed, as enabled by 1000minds conjoint analysis surveys.

3 city beaches threatened

6 1000minds conjoint analysis surveys

700+ citizen responses

As the leading engineering professional services firm in the country, WSP New Zealand is often called on by central and local government to help with important engineering projects.

WSP partnered with 1000minds to engage with a diverse range of community groups about how the beaches of the city of Dunedin threatened by erosion should be managed.

About WSP New Zealand

WSP New Zealand (formerly WSP Opus) is owned by Canadian multinational WSP Global, one of the world’s largest professional services firms.

The engineering professional services provided by WSP New Zealand cover the environment, power and water, infrastructure, buildings, sustainability, climate change, etc.

The challenge

A challenge: coastal property threatened by erosion.

WSP was engaged by the Dunedin City Council to advise on solutions for managing Dunedin’s main city beaches (St Clair, Middle Beach and St Kilda) which are under increasing threat from serious coastal erosion caused by rising sea levels.

As sand has been lost over the last few decades, the beaches’ recreational and other amenity values have been stripped away too. Dangerous landfill buried in the sand dunes last century has also been exposed.

These harms are likely to increase as sea levels rise in the future, including threats to low-lying parts of the city itself. A coastal management plan is urgently needed.

The plan needs to accommodate the wide range of views about how the beaches should be managed from a very diverse range of citizen groups: e.g. local residents, businesses, surfers, beach walkers, environmentalists, ratepayers.

For example, some people want ‘hard’ engineering solutions (e.g. sea walls) whereas, at the other extreme, others would prefer to literally ‘let nature take its course’ and allow the sea to reclaim low lying land.

A fundamental goal of the project, titled “Whakahekerau – Rakiātea Rautaki Tai: A community’s vision for a resilient coast”, was community participation in the decision-making process. This participation included understanding citizens’ preferences for how their beaches should be managed.

The solution

Which of these two (hypothetical) options for responding to rising sea levels do you prefer?
Effects on cultural sites and values
Very good
Socio-economic effects
Effects on cultural sites and values
Socio-economic effects
Very good
This one
This one
They are equal

1000minds helped WSP and Dunedin City Council to create, administer and interpret several conjoint analysis surveys designed to elicit citizens’ preferences with respect to future outcomes for the beaches.

As well as its scientific validity and user-friendliness, a major strength of 1000minds is that the preferences information generated is for each individual survey participant (instead of just for the group overall, as for other conjoint analysis methods).

Such individual-level data enables similarities and differences between sub-groups of participants (in this case, citizens) to be evaluated. For example, do local residents, businesses and surfers, etc feel differently about how Dunedin’s beaches should be managed?

The results

The results: a good plan for the future.

The results from the conjoint analysis surveys enabled WSP to advise its client, Dunedin City Council, on how citizens feel about their beaches and how they would like them to be in the future – and, hence, how the coastline should be managed.

This information provided WSP and Dunedin City Council with an important input for the development of a consensus-based coastal management plan.


Using 1000minds conjoint analysis surveys, WSP was able to elicit and understand the preferences of the citizens of Dunedin about how their beaches should be managed.

The project was judged “Australasian Project of the Year” at the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2)’s Core Value Awards 2021 for its excellent community engagement in the project’s decision-making process.

Read more about the project and award.

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