Cork Harbour is a large natural harbour located on the southern coast of Ireland and exerts a considerable influence on the City of Cork. The topography of the landscape is gently undulating, with a mixed coastline consisting of built infrastructure, shallow cliffs, intertidal mudflats, reed beds, shingle and rocky foreshores. The area is particularly important for birdlife and is designated as both a Ramsar wetland site and a Special Protection Area for birds. The Harbour provides a natural public amenity; natural assets enjoyed by local communities include an attractive coastline, and is also a location with a rich maritime heritage. Because of the geographic scope and sheltered nature of Cork Harbour it has a long tradition of recreational boating, including sailing, fishing and power boating. The physical geography of the Harbour on the south coast of Ireland provides a strategic location for the Port of Cork situated in close proximity to the main shipping line to northern Europe. Port operations are distributed throughout the Harbour, from a city centre location to the ferry terminal at Ringaskiddy. The presence of gas fields offshore from Cork Harbour has resulted in the location of many exploration companies in the Harbour over the last 30 years. Moreover, Cork Harbour is a hub for pharmaceutical industries.
This case describes the steps taken towards achieving more balanced management of a multi-use environment such as Cork Harbour. It includes the integration of risk associated with climate change, through the establishment of a strategic alliance (couplet) between the local authority and multidisciplinary academic experts (Coastal and Marine Research Centre - CMRC, University College Cork and Cork County Council). This innovative relationship resulted in the adoption of an Integrated Management Strategy for Cork Harbour (COREPOINT, 2008) set up with the consensus of stakeholders and a strengthened link between science and policy at the local level. The implementation of this Strategy was then progressed again through INTERREG IVB NWE under Innovative Management for Europe’s Changing Coastal Resource (IMCORE) project, which had a more pronounced focus on climate change adaptation (and the addition of National Maritime College of Ireland, NMCI, joining the couplet).
The main objective of the approach was to move towards the establishment of an ICZM framework strategy for the Harbour and better integration of science-based knowledge in the planning and management regime, strengthening the link between science and policy. This was to be done with stakeholder participation and consensus. These goals were to be achieved in a mid-term timescale (3-5 years).
Using the stakeholder partnership formed to develop the integrated coastal management strategy for the Harbour, a process to develop a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy for the Harbour and its vicinity was initiated under the IMCORE project. This involved participatory processes similar to those used in developing the Integrated Management Strategy, coupled with the use of scenarios to help visualise various options for the Harbour area under different climate change circumstances. The primary impact of concern to most stakeholders was flooding and a visualisation model was developed to present this to stakeholders. The process culminated in the preparation of an Adaptation Strategy for Cork Harbour, focusing on the desired future for flood management to 2030. The Strategy identifies actions and activities (and related delivery period and responsibility) in various fields, for example:
- Political, including the actions: Robust decision making processes and structures to be instituted, Planning to have a longer term, strategic focus;
- Economic, including the actions: Critical infrastructure to become flood resilient, Business and residents of Cork to have continued access to flood insurance provision;
- Social, including the action: Society to have a proactive involvement in building resilience to, and effectively coping with, flood events;
- Technological, including the actions: Timely and accurate prediction of flood magnitude and extent, Early warning system to be instituted that would alert Cork citizens and businesses of likelihood of flooding;
- Legal, including the actions: Integration of planning processes to ensure coherent flood management responses, Systems of monitoring and evaluation of policy performance to be instituted and acted upon;
- Environmental, including the actions: Environmental management to be informed by system approaches, Ecosystem no longer managed using a designed area approach, Flood water buffering potential of natural and built environment maximised.
The content of the adaptation strategy will be reflected in forthcoming local authority planning policy, as a result of climate change adaptation becoming a legal responsibility of local authorities under new legislation.