Adaptation Options for Rural Coastal Lowlands

Host Faculty: Engineering
General Subject Area: Civil Systems Engineering
Project Level: PhD
View the Research Website
Floodplane Tauranga

Aotearoa-NZ’s coastal lowlands are an extremely valuable, but finite and constrained, resource that is under increasing threat from relative sea level rise. Inevitable and unrelenting, RSLR will eventually require the transformation of Aotearoa-NZ’s lowland socio-economic systems. Achieving a successful transformation to different – but still economically productive and socially desirable – states will require the socio-economic and natural systems in the coastal environment to have the capacity to cope with RSLR, on top of extreme events and human impacts, by adapting whilst maintaining essential functions.

This PhD is funded through Future Coasts Aotearoa (, a 5-year MBIE-funded research program working to enhance the evidence base for RSLR risks (exposure, consequences, evolving environmental states adaptation thresholds, positive/negative feedbacks); build fit-forpurpose, multi-well-being evaluation tools; and fold them into a dynamic adaptive planning decision-making framework that transparently compares adaptation preferences in terms of costs, benefits, risks and opportunities across connected social, cultural, economic and natural systems.

We seek a PhD student to investigate adaptation options for rural coastal lowlands. For example, when will farming in some areas stop being feasible (through an economic and a broader wellbeing lens), what are alternative land use options, and when might these alternative land uses become socially and economically preferable to dairy farming? The research would focus on one of five case study locations: Kaituna River lowlands, Canterbury coastal alluvial aquifers, lower Waikato River, Waimea Plains, or Rangaunu Harbour/Awanui catchment. The PhD scholarship is funded by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) through Future Coasts Aotearoa.

Specifically, the candidate would:
• Undertake a risk assessment for multiple interacting hazards in the case study area under future uncertainty
• Investigate possible solutions to delay the effects of sea level rise, saline intrusion and peat shrinkage
• Identify adaptation thresholds and indicators that need to be monitored
• Investigate alternate land uses that would be sustainable under a wide variety of possible futures

Support for the project includes: a stipend of NZ$28,000 per annum (excluding fees), fees and funding designed to facilitate academic and professional development through conference attendance and short-term hosting by relevant science and policy institutions.

How to apply: Potential candidates must have an Honours or Masters degree (or equivalent). The nature of the research project means that candidates from a variety of academic backgrounds may be considered. Interested candidates should email a cover letter outlining your background, interest in the project, and a CV to Dr Tom Logan

Tom Logan, UC.
Jan Kwakkel, TU Delft
Andrew Allison, NIWA.


Supervisor: Tom Logan

Key qualifications and skills

Candidates suitable for this position will have proven ability in numerical modelling. They should have a BE Hons/BSc Hons or ME/MSc with a substantive research thesis component. We are seeking applicants with a background in hydrological, physical, or social process modelling. The candidates will have experience in, or will be taught, robust decision making, decision-making under deep uncertainty, and the Python coding language, or similar. We will select a candidate who is self-motivated, with good verbal and written communication skills, and has an excellent academic record and the technical background necessary to successfully undertake this research. 

Does the project come with funding

Yes - Annual stipend of NZ$28,000 + travel

Final date for receiving applications



climate change; uncertainty; adaptation; decision-making; risk