Coastal Adaptation Decision Pathways

14 projects share in $4.5 M to support practical approaches in managing climate change impacts in coastal communities.

Coastal Adaptation Decision Pathways



The Gillard Government invested $4.5 million in 13 Coastal Adaptation Decision Pathways (CAP) projects over 2011-2012 to deliver useful tools and fresh analysis for managing climate risk around Australia’s coastline. CAP Program partners have begun releasing the results of their pioneering and practical work, offering state and local government decision makers additional information in managing climate risks.

Local councils in the Port Phillip Bay area in Victoria, for example, have developed an innovative approach to help weigh up the cost of protecting communities and infrastructure against the benefits of ongoing property development in the area. Councils were advised to improve drainage to reduce flood risks and to help communities become more prepared for flood events.

“The Port Phillip Bay project is just one example of how the Government’s CAP Program will help decision makers respond in practical ways to climate change,” said the Minister for Climate Change, Industry and Innovation, Greg Combet.

“Each of these projects have involved important partnerships between local governments, utilities, NGOs and researchers.”

The “AdaptWater” tool, for example, was developed by the Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA), in partnership with Sydney Water – the online tool will help water utilities make better investment decisions in a changing climate.

“Our members operate around 260,000 km of pipeline and hundreds of water and sewage treatment facilities. Ensuring these assets perform reliably under climate change will be an important outcome of the AdaptWater tool,” said Adam Lovell, Executive Director of WSAA.

The President of the Local Government Association of SA, Mayor Kym McHugh said the project was about arming key decision makers along the coast with relevant tools to help them manage complicated future challenges.

According to the Chair of the Western Coastal Board in Victoria, Cr. Jill Parker of Moyne Shire, “the Board had always known how valuable the camping parks were to visitors to the region, but the project has shown how not only the visitors, but also the communities, value the parks. We now have the evidence to demonstrate that they are an asset worth protecting.”



The Australian Government understands that climate change will lead to considerable risks to assets and productivity in the coastal zone, which will impact on communities. These risks may include more frequent inundation of coastal infrastructure and settlements, increased damage costs to households, more regular disruption to service delivery in areas affected by flooding, loss of natural ecosystems, reduced asset life from accelerated corrosion and degradation, possible reduced access to affordable insurance cover, loss of public and private land through erosion, and greater expenditure on asset repair and maintenance. In a number of coastal areas climate change is likely to require investment in protective works and asset strengthening, or in planned retreat.

There is currently very little information available on the comparative costs and benefits of different adaptation options, and at what timeframe or quantum of climate change a particular adaptation option becomes cost-effective and acceptable. Given the long life of many coastal assets, and the need to avoid the high cost of early “over-engineering”, a flexible adaptation pathway can help identify cost-effective steps to build resilience in the context of longer term trends in climate.

The Australian Government is partnering with decision-makers in the coastal zone to explore and demonstrate decision or investment pathways that can build resilience to the increasing risks from future climate impacts. Projects have a focus on the decision pathways that enable the transformation of business operations to prepare for longer-term climate change projections.



The objectives of Coastal Adaptation Decision Pathways projects are to:

  • demonstrate the utility of flexible pathways that incorporate future climate risk and adaptation actions into decision-making
  • establish the key partnerships that will position communities in the longer term to drive the reform required to manage climate change risks
  • provide leadership in new approaches to cost-effectively manage legacy asset risk, and
  • enhance the adaptive capacity of governments, communities and infrastructure and service providers through engagement in developing planning for future options.



  • Rising to the challenge – developing flexible coastal adaptation pathways for local communities (TAS): Local Government Association of Tasmania
  • Choosing a preferred pathway for Port Phillip Bay (VIC): Municipal Association of Victoria
  • A Value and Equity Framework for climate adaptation – Caravan and Camping Parks case study (VIC): Western Coastal Board
  • Climate Change Adaptation Tool for the Water Industry (NSW/National): Water Services Association of Australia
  • Pilot Council and Insurance Partnership on Climate Adaptation Methods (QLD): Sunshine Coast Council
  • Assessment and Decision Frameworks for Existing Seawalls (NSW/QLD): Sydney Coastal Councils Group
  • Queensland Coastal Hazard Adaptation Strategy pilot study – Townsville (QLD): Local Government Association of Queensland; Townsville City Council and Queensland Department of Environment and Resource Management
  • Demonstrating Climate Change Adaptation of Interconnected Water Infrastructure Project (NSW): Sydney Water
  • Multi-Criteria Approaches to Adaptive Coastal Development (prioritising coastal adaptation options) (NSW): Sydney Coastal Councils Group and Local Government and Shires Associations of New South Wales
  • Decision Support for Adaptation Action (NSW): Hunter Councils / Hunter and Central Coast Regional Environmental Management Strategy
  • Climate change decision support framework and software for coastal Councils (SA): Local Government Association of South Australia
  • Developing Flexible Adaptation Pathways for the Peron Naturaliste Coastal Region of Western Australia (WA): Peron Naturaliste Partnership
  • Deciding for the coast – implementing effective adaptation actions (VIC): South East Councils Climate Change Alliance


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