by Rachael Laurie
Climate change poses a both a direct and indirect threat to our coastal and low-lying communities. Sea level rise and an intensification in storm events will increase the likelihood of flooding in these areas. Many people living in these regions are already our most vulnerable citizens. In South Dunedin, 28.4 percent of people are over 65-years-old, compared to just 14.9 percent of the total Dunedin city population and nearly half the population over 15-years-old earn less than $20,000 per year.
Community-Based Adaptation is about recognising the unique risks faced by our vulnerable communities and their essential roles in planning, implementing, monitoring and evaluating solutions. Community participation enhances a shared appreciation of the different needs of the community, local authorities and other key stakeholders regarding difficulties relating to climate change. Research has shown that a top-down approach that involves outside institutions rarely work. Often, this is because they included the use of technology that is financially unrealistic to that community, or they ignored the specific micro-climate conditions of that community. Community-Based Adaptation instead uses a bottom-up approach which helps to empower the community. Working from the bottom up has two dimensions: first, local stakeholders must be included in the decision-making process; second, instead of using distant scenarios, strategies should be based on lived experience.
There are seven basic principles to Community-Based Adaptation: (1) community focus, (2) community member’s participation, (3) inter-sectoral collaboration, (4) substantial resource requirements, (5) long-term programme view, (6) multifaceted interventions, and (7) population outcome.
We have begun to work with the communities of Waitati, Long Beach, South Dunedin and Brighton to find out what their perceptions of climate change are and what they think some solutions could be. We have also hosted an exhibition showcasing blueprint for the design of a Climate Safe House in collaboration with Otago Polytechnic and have run a workshop on Building Community Resilience. In the future, we hope to continue working with the community to build a climate safe house which will be an example for future adaptation.