Cyclone Percy Development

Name of case study

Cyclone Percy Development

Location

  • Atafu
  • Tokelau

Year

2005

Scale

Suburb/neighbourhood scale

Area / size

250 hectares

NbS employed

Coastal Setback

Type of NbS

Ecosystem restoration; Ecosystem protection; Management / social / political

Initiator

Government / local citizens

Funder

Housing grant scheme, relief aid from other countries

Budget

Approximately $NZ500,000

Design group

Local citizens, Government, and coastal scientists

Areas of frequent flooding, Atafu, Tokelau. Figure by Ramsay, D, (2014).
Tokelau. Photo by Doug Ramsay.
Climate change benefits
  • Biomass cover loss
  • Coastal erosion and storm surge
  • Sea level rise.
Societal / socio-cultural benefits
  • Climate change adaptation
  • Disaster risk reduction.
Ecological benefits
  • Climate regulation
  • Disturbance prevention
  • habitat provision
  • Purification.
Tokelau. Photo by Doug Ramsay.

Summary of case study

Coastal scientists along with the Government and local citizens in Tokelau came together to develop plans for reducing the impacts of coastal hazards after the damaging events of Cyclone Percy in 2005. Percy devastated the island of Tokelau, leaving many homeless and caused millions of dollars of property damage. Planning included addressing coastal hazards such as storm surge and flooding. 

Areas around Atafu were identified in terms of the most frequent flooding and over-washing zones. These areas shared key characteristics (Gombos et al., 2014). Where there had been significant clearing of vegetation and coral rubble these areas experienced more intense impacts from Cyclone Percy. 

A coastal setback area was developed to be 15 – 25 m behind the implemented shore vegetation line for any new development after the cyclone (Gombos et al., 2014). This allowed coastal processes to remained undisturbed where they were still in place. Existing built defences also work to reduce the number of waves to wash over and reach the lagoon zone.

Rising sea levels have driven the atoll people to adapt by moving structures inland. Now they are less exposed and have a vegetation buffer which can reduce some of the impacts of extreme disaster events like Cyclone Percy to a certain extent. Working with government groups alongside local citizens meant changes to the island were socially accepted and improved the resilience of the island’s people. 

Within the redevelopment planning, Indigenous methods used on the island that withstood Cyclone Percy were retained. This included pig pens that were built decades ago but were not flooded during the cyclone events. In light of this, new defenses were built 15 – 25 m behind the vegetation line based on the design of these pig pens (Gombos et al. 2014). 

The replanted shoreline protects and enhances the nearby coral reefs, allowing for fish and bird life to have improved habitats. Some of these were removed or damaged because of urbanisation and the associated removal of vegetation in large areas on the atoll.

Rather than investing in costly structural systems to mitigate extreme disaster events, implementing planning schemes for existing structures and enhancing biomass cover offers substantial cost benefits. While both approaches aim to safeguard the island from significant events, revegetation and coastal setbacks present numerous opportunities for social, ecological, and cultural enhancements that can benefit the community.

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Awareness poster developed in 1999 by the Development Review Commission in Kosrae. Image: CCCPIR
References
  • Gombos, M., Ramsay, D., Webb, A., Marra, J., Atkinson, S., & Gorong, B. (Eds.) (2014). Coastal Change in the Pacific Islands, Volume One: A Guide to Support Community Understanding of Coastal Erosion and Flooding Issues. Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia: Micronesia Conservation Trust.
  • Gombos, M., Ramsay, D., Webb, A., Marra, J., Atkinson, S., & Gorong, B. (2014). Coastal Change in the Pacific Islands, Volume Two: A Guide to Support Community Decision-Making on Coastal Erosion and Flooding Issues. Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia: Micronesia Conservation Trust.

Further resources:

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