The impact of private property rights and regulatory takings doctrines on implementing retreat from rising seas in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

Legal issues can complicate the implementation of coastal retreat as an effective response to sea level rise. Through comparative analysis, we determine if private property rights protection are related to the success of retreat policies in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. The United States has the strictest property rights of the three countries.

Although concerns about violating the constitution’s takings clause likely restrains governments from implementing retreat, these concerns ensure private property rights are protected. Australian state and local governments passed strict mandatory retreat regulations, but, most policies were subsequently repealed, creating a “boomerang effect.”

In Australia, compensation is statutory and not guaranteed, and the weaker compensation rights likely precipitated the backlash. New Zealand mandates implementation of sea level rise, and opposition has arisen, although widespread repeal has not occurred. Findings support the theory that providing compensation and protecting private property rights leads to more successful retreat policies.

This research seminar, presented by Stephen Flood is based on a working paper written by Judd Schechtman (lead author), JD, MUP, Rutgers University, Rebecca Leshinsky, PhD, RMIT University, and Stephen, PhD.

Stephen Flood is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute in Victoria University of Wellington and a director and head of research at Smartearth Ireland; an international climate and development consultancy.

Image by Andrii Slonchak via Flickr/CC BY 2.0


Building 13, Boardroom Level 4, Room 2, 405 Russell Street RMIT University Melbourne 3000


3pm to 4pm. Light refreshments provided until 5pm