Climate Change Adaptation Must be a Priority – New Report

Both Central and Local Government Must Show Leadership

The New Zealand Herald has reported that the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group has today released 21 major recommendations, urgently calling for better planning, resourcing, and leadership.

Chief among its recommendations in the short term was that the Government should make climate change adaptation a priority – for itself, councils and the public.

“The group called upon the Government to start work on a national adaptation plan that would define what needs to be done first and who does what, along with a countrywide risk assessment to inform it.”

“It further called for strong leadership on climate change – and that included everything from a review of policy and legislation to factoring climate impacts into government and council procurement processes.”

All of this is music to my ears. For years now I have been saying that we need urgent risk assessments of the threat of sea level rise for places like Thames, and that we need much stronger national direction so that local councils can no longer ignore the effects of climate change and give consent to risky coastal development. We need leadership from our local leaders and in Wellington, we need more research and funding, and an urgent review of the law and policy relating to these issues.

Specific recommendations include:-

  • amending the Local Government Act 2002 to specify climate change adaptation as a function of local government and removing legal barriers so the work can happen more easily.
  • a need for more investment in science and research
  • a new “centralised service” to give expert advice, more climate-focused capability across public and private sectors
  • funding structures that would hold up over the long term.

“The working group’s new report follows increasingly bleak estimates around climate change’s risk to New Zealand, where more than $200 billion of public assets and infrastructure is under threat from rising seas and storm surges.”

“Even the mid-range projected sea-level rise over the next 50 years, 30cm, was enough to affect all seaside areas to a varying extent.”

“Under this scenario, in Wellington a one-in-100-year flood would become an annual event, in Dunedin this would become a one-in-two-year event, and in Auckland a one-in-four-year event.”

“That meant the once-in-a-century January 2018 that flooded parts of Thames and the Coast would happen once every four years, and a 40cm sea-level rise would make it a two-year occurrence.”


“A 70cm rise would make it a monthly event.”

“The working group’s co-chair, Victoria University senior researcher Dr Judy Lawrence, said even if the world stopped all greenhouse gas emissions today, our climate would still change for centuries.”

“Previous emissions take time to show their impact and are long-lasting,” she said.

“We are already seeing the effects of climate change with sea-level rise, more floods and hotter temperatures and we can expect further losses and damage.

“We need robust data to assess our risks and see where and who is most vulnerable and exposed. This will enable us to put a national plan into action which is independently monitored and reported on.

“Adaptation needs to be funded so that there are incentives for people and organisations to take adaptive action,” Lawrence said.

“All of this work needs to be supported by strong leadership. The group has conveyed its expectation that the Government will put in place a co-ordinated set of measures.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said new money allocated in the Budget – that included $8.9 million over four years for policy work and $2.2m to get the new commission up and running – had been put toward those priorities.

“Taking early action in the right areas is likely to avoid the need for more abrupt action later,” he said.

“I see risk assessment as a priority and I intend to bring options to Cabinet soon for a decision on how and when to do a risk assessment.

“In the coming weeks we will be asking New Zealanders how they see New Zealand adapting to the effects of climate change as part of the Zero Carbon Bill consultation.”

A copy of the Report is not yet available online.  When it is I will post a link.