Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 193–209 | Cite as

Planned retreat as a management response to coastal risk: a case study from the Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia

  • Rhiannon J. NivenEmail author
  • Douglas K. Bardsley
Original Article


Australian coastal areas have been identified as highly vulnerable to climate change, with major projected impacts including sea level rise, extreme weather events, increased erosion, and a change in coastal processes and wave patterns. Such impacts would cause coastal settlements and ecosystems to face increasingly uncertain conditions. In response to increased risk, effective coastal management at local and regional scales is needed, with governing bodies providing significant leadership. This research explores the challenges of applying effective adaptation responses to projected climate change in vulnerable coastal systems on the South Coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula, South Australia. In particular, the option of planned retreat as a management response to coastal risk is critically examined, with the incorporation of learning from Byron Bay, NSW. A mixed methods approach was undertaken by integrating documentary interrogation with the analysis of interview responses from key coastal managers. It was determined that despite the increase in adaptation planning and development of management strategy options to manage sea level rise on the Fleurieu Peninsula, there is a lack of implementation of adaptation responses. In addition, planning seems to focus largely on the implications of sea level rise on infrastructure, often overlooking other risks and possible ecological impacts. Inconsistencies in governance are reflected at all levels, indicating a need for comprehensive improvements to ensure the incorporation of appropriate risk responses into planning decisions.


Retreat Coastal risk Risk Society Adaptation Climate change South Australia 



This research was funded by the Australian Climate Change Adaptation Research Network for Settlements and Infrastructure (ACCARNSI) and SA Water. Thanks to all the people from various government organizations, especially the Adelaide & Mt Lofty Fleurieu Natural Resource Management Group, who shared their time and knowledge. Thanks to three anonymous reviewers whose comments resulted in changes that improved the paper. In addition, thanks to Christine Crothers who designed the maps for this project. Special acknowledgement must also be given to Sophie who helped with the transcribing of interviews and those who helped with earlier drafts.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geography, Environment and Population, School of Social SciencesThe University of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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