New Zealand’s first nationwide climate change risk stocktake has highlighted ten areas of most concern. The extreme risks identified all apply in Thames Coromandel. The risks from sea-level rise feature heavily in the extreme/urgent category of risk.
Of the 43 risks identified, ten that require urgent action in the next six years are highlighted. Risks to buildings from more frequent extreme weather, wildfire, and coastal flooding were on the “urgent” list – as was preparing for social hurt to communities from people being displaced from their homes.
The projections for sea-level rise have been updated/increased to include the latest data from the 2019 IPCC report.
The risk assessment is based on a high-emissions trajectory, and this is entirely appropriate as unfortunately, the world is currently heading in this direction.
The Climate Change Response (Zero-Carbon) Amendment Act 2019 included a requirement for a National Climate Change Risk Assessment every six years, with a national adaptation plan developed two years after each risk assessment.
Otago University’s Centre for Sustainability director, Janet Stephenson, said two years was “too far away”. “We need serious political attention to be paid to taking action on this impending crisis long before then,” she said. ”New Zealand’s successful Covid response has shown the advantage in moving ‘fast and hard’ to solve an impending crisis… investing now for mitigation and adaptation is far more cost-effective than waiting.”
The report makes plain the impacts won’t be shared equally. For example, the elderly are more at risk than others from extreme events and having to evacuate their homes. This is a concern in Thames-Coromandel where already 30% of the population is aged over 65.
Implications for TCDC and Waikato Regional Council
The National Risk Assessment will inform regional and local risk assessments and these will need to be used in the development of local climate adaptation plans. This has been foreshadowed by the concurrent release of the Randerson Report on New Directions for Resource Management in New Zealand. One of the main recommendations from the RMA review is the requirement for regional-scale spatial strategies and joint governance committees involving local and regional government – with a major role in addressing regional adaptation to climate change.
Also, the recent RMA Amendment Act 2020 explicitly links the national adaptation plan to RMA policy and plan-making by local government. Local councils must have regard to ‘any national adaptation plan made in accordance with section 5ZS of the Climate Change Response Act 2002’ when preparing or changing policy statements and plans.
This will ensure that RMA plans are able to pick up on national direction for climate adaptation.
It will also mean that the days are numbered for TCDC thinking it can “go it alone” with Shoreline Management Plans and other responses to climate change. Last week TCDC chose to exclude Waikato Regional Council from co-governance of the SMP project.
These law reforms will require local and regional government and central government to collaborate strongly in the preparation of adaptation plans and the requirement to reduce carbon emissions.
Media coverage of the report –