A natural hazards planning expert says retreating from coastlines in the event of rising sea levels will mean difficult choices.
The warning has come from Massey University professor, Bruce Glavovic, who recently wrote a book looking at the impact of climate change on coastal settings and settlements around the world.
He argues that we need to consider a managed retreat from many coastal towns, as well as giving them the resources and flexibility to adjust to the changes.
Professor Glavovic said it was not simply a matter of picking up communities and moving them, as there was more to think about than just people's houses.
"Climate change is not a matter of debate, as often as it is portrayed in that way," he said. "Our coasts are the frontlines of the change in climate, and the frontline of learning to live with this change."
He said with critical infrastructure, such as Wellington Airport, there was a real imperative for it to be protected so it can continue to benefit the city.