Managing flood risk

This page provides information on managing flood risk in New Zealand.

What is flood risk?

Flooding is a natural process which occurs when river levels or lake levels are higher than the surrounding land, or when stormwater cannot drain away and builds up.

Flood risk is the size of the flood and the damage that occurs from a flood, for instance to homes or businesses, crops or pasture. Flood risks are different around the country, depending on the local circumstances. In some areas rainfall is greater, such as the West Coast of the South Island. In other areas towns and cities have been established on floodplains.

Flooding can have significant consequences for communities and individuals. These include community trauma and disruption, damage to property and infrastructure, business losses and economic hardship.

Managing flood risk

Managing flood risk is all of our responsibility, from central government to local government, to communities and individuals.

Flood risk is managed before, during and after floods. Importantly, we can reduce flood risk by taking action before floods happen by avoiding flood prone areas, protecting property and making sure there are warning systems in place. We also need to be prepared for when floods do occur. During a flood, management focuses on getting people and stock out of harms way. After a flood, ensuring people and communities recover from the flood is the more important management task.

Local flood risk

Your local regional, city and district councils are responsible for managing flood risk in your area. If you would like to know more about how flood risk is managed in your area, then contact your council for further information. Information about what to do in a flood is available from the Civil Defence website, Get Ready, Get Thru.

More information is available about roles and responsibilities of individuals, district/city councils, regional councils and central government.

New Zealand Standard on Flood Risk Management

The New Zealand Standard “Managing Flood Risk - A Process Standard” was developed under the Standards Act 1988 and published in November 2008. The standard is a voluntary tool that provides a set of principles to help decision making and promote good practice in flood risk management.

The standard originates from the draft New Zealand Protocol on Managing Flood Risk [Centre for Advanced Engineering website] published in 2006. The Protocol was developed by local government, with help from the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand and central government.

See Standards NZ website for more information.


The Quality Planning website has a guidance note on Natural Hazards Management that includes information on managing flood hazards through RMA plans.