Lower Hutt residents concerned by level of climate change 'managed retreat' consultation

All over the country, authorities are having difficult conversations with flood-prone and coastal communities about 'managed retreat'.

It's the plan to abandon properties most at risk of climate change. But some residents say they've been left out of that conversation.

In a bid to save Lower Hutt from flooding, more than 100 riverside properties will be sacrificed.

They were bought by the council to be demolished, to make way for a bigger stop-bank.

For those living in these homes, the future's uncertain.

"People are on the street already, where are all of us going to go?" says Pharazyn Street resident Kerry Williams.

The 'managed retreat' is part of the Hutt City Council's plan to mitigate flood risk.

It's a concept many flood-prone communities are grappling with - but a concept Williams says they haven't been consulted on.

"We're going to lose our homes, as well as all the flats down the street, with hundreds of people. And we've heard nothing," she says.

Greater Wellington Regional Council flood management committee chair Prue Lamason says the regional council is a responsible landlord, which has kept tenants informed of its plan.

"There is no way we're going to knock on their door and say 'sorry, you're out of here tomorrow'."

Experts say authorities need to find a better way to allay fears of devalued assets or possible homelessness as a result of managed retreat.

"The word that gets heard most is retreat, not managed. That's because no-one has actually thought through what managed retreat is," NIWA chief climate scientist Andrew Tait.

But Tait says it's also important not to impose the concept on communities.

That balance has been struck in Makara, Wellington's only west coast beach, where locals like Brett Marley are leading the discussion on climate change.

"It was amazingly empowering. Personally, my faith in the government and local government was raised significantly," he says.

The experiences of these two Wellington communities will be useful for other councils facing similar challenges and uncertain futures.