Coastal vulnerability made simple

Mr Charlie Bicknell1

1EvoCoast, Capel, Australia


What is a coastal vulnerability assessment and how do you complete one? Although intended to be a simple process, there is often confusion on how to undertake an assessment. Establishing the objectives, planning the methodology and defining the expected outcomes can all be difficult to comprehend.

A coastal vulnerability assessment moves the focus from coastal processes and understanding physical changes in the position of the shoreline, to identifying the impacts on assets within the coastal zone. Having a clear understanding of the relative vulnerability of assets provides the essential guidance on the need for, and prioritisation of, future planning and adaptation. Vulnerability is usually defined as the combination of exposure, sensitivity and adaptive capacity. This uses different terminology to a conventional risk assessment (likelihood and consequence). However, there is significant commonality between the two processes.

In this paper, we explore the synergies between a vulnerability assessment and a risk assessment and identify opportunities where they can be combined. In doing so we present a simple framework and methodology for undertaking a coastal vulnerability assessment. The method has been found to meet the requirements of the Western Australia State Planning Policy No. 2.6 State Coastal Planning Policy and be consistent with the Western Australian Coastal Hazard Risk Management & Adaptation Planning Guidelines.


Charlie has over 14 years experience as a coastal engineer with over a decade’s local experience within Western Australia. He has extensive experience in the investigation, design and construction of maritime infrastructure and coastal protection.

During his time in government Charlie authored the WA’s 2010 ‘Sea Level Change in Western Australia’ report and in 2012 he co-authored the current WA State Coastal Planning Policy (WAPC SPP 2.6).

About the Association

The Australian Coastal Society (ACS) was initiated at the Coast to Coast Conference in Tasmania in 2004. The idea was floated as a means for those interested in coastal matters to communicate between conferences and where possible take resolutions of the conference to appropriate levels of government.

The idea was discussed further at the Coast to Coast Conference in Melbourne in 2006 and it was agreed that Bruce Thom develop a constitution of a company limited by guarantee that would operate on a national basis.

This plan was accomplished and in 2008 at the Coast to Coast Conference in Darwin the constitution was ratified and an Executive appointed. The company received charitable status in 2011.

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