H3: How Do You Relocate a City?

This post is part of our live blog series from the Resilient Cities 2015 congress. For more live blogs, please click here.

Taro Island is, according to Shannon McGuire of Buckley Vann Town Planning Consultants,

“an inspiring example of a community who are getting on with the job of improving their resiliency to climate change impacts.”

And the change they are making is not minor. In response to the growing threat of tsunamis and rising sea levels, the provincial capital is preparing to relocate itself – moving all 900 people.

Taro is one example of a city moving “beyond adaptation”. Some cities may be able to respond to threats with changes to infrastructure or more comprehensive systems. But Taro Island is less than two meters above the mean sea level, and is vulnerable to storm surges and erosion, as well as tsunamis.

150610_choiseulBuckley Vann was tasked with creating an adaptation plan for the community in response to the growing threats. The project engaged intensively with the community, talking to 300 community members in total. This engagement revealed that people had a strong desire to relocate, based on the changes they were seeing. And residents wanted not just any new town; rather, they called for a clean, green place to live in safety.

McGuire provided an insight into the importance of community engagement during such a process. From her experience, she had learnt that they keys were to:

  • make complex things simple;
  • use visual engagement materials;
  • draw out and validate community values; and
  • show how feedback was reflected.

These efforts were recognized and acknowledged by the President, Jackson Killoe, who stated:

“The project followed the ways of our tradition.”

This project is funded by the Australian government. As such, it encapsulates the need for engagement on small and large scales. Funding may come from the federal government but, as McGuire noted,

“for adaptation to be successful, you can’t just have a top-down approach.”

The same is true for efforts “beyond adaptation”. Taro Island demonstrates that even in extreme circumstances, achievements are made when communities are engaged and prioritized.

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