Managing peri-urban floodplains and urban-rural connectivity: A case study in ecosystems governance following a disaster event
Peri-urban environments are critical to the connections between urban and rural ecosystems and their respective communities. Lowland floodplains are important examples that are attractive for urbanisation and often associated with the loss of rural lands and resources. In Christchurch, New Zealand, damage from major earthquakes led to the large-scale abandonment of urban residential properties in former floodplain areas creating a rare opportunity to re-imagine the future of these lands. This has posed a unique governance challenge involving the reassessment of land-use options and a renewed focus on disaster risk and climate change adaptation. Urban-rural tensions have emerged through decisions on relocating residential development, alternative proposals for land uses, and an unprecedented opportunity for redress of degraded traditional values for indigenous (Māori) people.
Immediately following the earthquakes, existing statutory arrangements applied to many recovery needs and identified institutional responsibilities. Bespoke legislation was also created to address the scale of impacts. Characteristics of the approach have included attention to information acquisition, iterative assessment of land - use options, and a wide variety of opportunities for community participation. Challenges have included a protracted decision-making process with accompanying transaction costs, and a high requirement for coordination. The case typifies the challenges of achieving ecosystem governance where both urban and rural stakeholders have strong desires and an opportunity to exert influence. It presents a unique context for applying the latest thinking on ecosystem management, adaptation, and resilience, and offers transferable learning for the governance of peri-urban floodplains worldwide.