Flooding is the greatest climate risk in the UK and New Zealand, and it is recognized in both countries that the risk is increasing through changing rainfall patterns and rising sea levels. Comparatively, the UK has invested significantly more resources into managing the risk, particularly following the Summer 2007 floods. This investment has occurred at a strategic level (driven by European and central government legislation), at a regional and local level (driven by renewed Environment Agency and local council partnership working) and at a scheme level (driven by government and private partnership investment). It is against this backdrop of renewed organizational focus and funding that the flooding experienced across large areas of northern England and Scotland in December 2015 and January 2016 seems to be particularly concerning. Those who have been flooded through to the Prime Minister are asking whether the UK is on the right track to protect people, infrastructure and the environment from flooding in our current climate, and in a worsening future climate.
New Zealand faces many of the same challenges and adopts many of the global best practices which the UK also adopts. These approaches could range from top down legislation, adaptation and precautionary approaches to managing risk, funding of activities and the use of green infrastructure.
This paper reviews the approaches taken by the UK in key strategic technical areas in the last decade and provides observations from the perspective of a flood risk management professional working in both the UK and New Zealand. These lessons could provide valuable insight to New Zealand policy makers and flood management practitioners as the country decides on the best approach to managing stormwater flooding.