Assessing the efficacy of coastal adaptation plans in South Australia

Author: Jessica Priess

Priess, Jessica, 2022 Assessing the efficacy of coastal adaptation plans in South Australia, Flinders University, College of Science and Engineering

Terms of Use: This electronic version is (or will be) made publicly available by Flinders University in accordance with its open access policy for student theses. Copyright in this thesis remains with the author. You may use this material for uses permitted under the Copyright Act 1968. If you are the owner of any included third party copyright material and/or you believe that any material has been made available without permission of the copyright owner please contact with the details.


Coastal adaptation planning provides coastal communities with solutions to address local climate change impacts. As coastal climate hazards and impacts increase, the risks to coastal communities, infrastructure, and ecosystems also increase. Without effective adaptation planning and preparing for the impacts of climate change, communities may experience damage to infrastructure and development from coastal erosion, inundation, and extreme weather events. Coastal adaptation plans are increasingly being developed to address climate impacts locally. However, there are a number of commonly reported barriers to the implementation of adaptation plans. Many of these barriers are related to the content of plans, rather the exclusion of important details for effective implementation. There are 34 coastal councils in South Australia, at the time of writing, nine had a published coastal adaptation plan. The assessments of plans were conducted as a desk-top study based on the written content of the published South Australian coastal adaptation plans. All nine plans were assessed qualitatively, then quantitatively, against a predefined coding framework, created from international literature of best practice. This study assesses the efficacy of the nine published South Australian coastal adaptation plans for implementation using a range of evaluation criteria. Results show there was some variation in how well the South Australian coastal adaptation plans aligned with the evaluation criteria, ranging from 31 – 56% of criteria met. Many of the South Australian coastal adaptation plans effectively contained a number of important details for plan implementation, including prioritised and timebound actions, and the associated costs of adaptation actions. However, results also suggest that the nine South Australian coastal adaptation plans lacked many important details required for effective implementation of actions. Adaptation plan aspects, both lacking from South Australian coastal adaptation plans and important for implementation were firstly, identifying funding sources and clearly assigning roles and responsibilities for actions. Both aspects are important for outlining who is responsible for what actions, and where funds may come from. Secondly, outlining the requirements for ongoing monitoring and evaluation of adaptation plans post implementation, which is critical for assessing plan progress and encouraging an iterative process, were also lacking from most plans. South Australian coastal adaptation plans which met the highest percentage of criteria, were produced by councils already experiencing coastal hazards. The results demonstrate that the implementation of coastal adaptation plans in South Australia may not meet their intended aims, and may inhibit actions towards coastal hazards and risks. If plans are unable to be implemented effectively, likely implications include, losses and damage to natural coastal environments and the built environment such as infrastructure and assets, changes to social and cultural norms, and economic implications for residents and stakeholders. This study provides a baseline of the strengths and weaknesses of coastal adaptation plans published in South Australia at the time of writing, and identifies how future coastal adaptation plans can be improved.

Keywords: Coastal Adaptation, South Australia, Climate Change, Adaptation Plan, Risk

Subject: Environmental management thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2022
School: College of Science and Engineering
Supervisor: Beverley Clarke