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Wellington Restoration Day Blog #3 Jim Dahm – Key Note Speaker Restoration Day 2019

Jim is an applied coastal scientist with over 30 years experience. He specialises in providing advice on coastal adaptation, restoration, hazard assessment and management, and estuarine environments.  At over 300 sites around the New Zealand coastline, he has designed and implemented site-specific hazard management strategies. He has experience in both the private and public sectors developing regional and district-wide strategies as well.

Jim was also responsible for initiating community-based beach-care and coast-care dune restoration in New Zealand in the early 90s and has been involved in design and implementation of coastal restoration projects and the development of guidelines for this work.

He is currently the convener of Kuaotunu Beachcare Group in Coromandel which aims to restore and protect natural dune ecosystem and involve and inform community and landowners.

Jim places emphasis on understanding and working with nature, and with affected landowners and communities to achieve environmentally soft and sustainable solutions and adaptive management strategies.

Speaking at community workshops in Dunedin, Pukerua Bay, Piha and Bay of Plenty recently, Jim says people needed to adjust their behaviour and live more in harmony with the coast. "We can't win the fight with our beaches," he says.

"Coastal erosion is a natural process. Shorelines move, they're dynamic and we shouldn't always play God and try to stop that movement."

Jim says coastal erosion isn't so much about people having an issue with the sea, as the sea having an issue with us. Coastal erosion only becomes a hazard when something human gets in its way.

“People have to change the way they live with their coasts and understand them a lot better.”

Hard barriers, such as sea walls, are no longer favoured for protection because, while they protect what’s behind them, they cause problems with the beach in front.

Alternatives to these expensive engineering works were effective and also restore and enhance the biodiversity, amenity and recreational values of coasts.

"Making use of natural protection is often the best protection. You create the space and have a natural buffer like a dune and appropriate natural vegetation."

But Jim’s not opposed to seawalls in general - sometimes they're appropriate and necessary. He just says that most of the time they're not useful. You often lose the character of the coast and sometimes the beach itself.

In many places though, with the impacts of climate change and sea level rise, the water is still going to win eventually, and Jim has half a lifetime of experience about how to work with it, rather than against it.

Hear an interview with Jim on RNZs Nine to Noon.

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