The findings of the climate change adaptation report released today confirm Local Government New Zealand’s longstanding policy and advocacy position that there is an urgent need for strong joint action to minimise the risks to the natural and built environment, the economy, and communities as a result of climate change.
The Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group’s Stocktake Report provides a record of work underway by local and central government, and other stakeholders, towards building resilience to the effects of climate change, including across infrastructure, finance and health.
The Coastal Hazards and Climate Change Guidance 2017, also released today, notes there are 68,170 buildings including 43,680 houses at risk of sea level rise, with a replacement cost of $19 billion. Key infrastructure across the country including five regional airports, 46km of railway and 1,121km of roads is also exposed to risk.
The Stocktake Report finds that New Zealand has been slow in developing adaptation planning and identifies gaps that will need to be filled if New Zealand is to successfully adapt to climate change. These include a lack of an overarching plan for how New Zealand can adapt to climate change, a lack of role clarity and scarce funding and expertise. It also highlights knowledge gaps, including about what the impacts of climate change will be on the environment and for communities.
Local Government New Zealand agrees with the report’s points that effective climate change adaptation – whether by investing in infrastructure to protect communities or planning for retreat – requires coordination and collaboration between central and local government, and across other sectors and society.
LGNZ President Dave Cull says while much of the work required to ensure communities are positioned to cope with climate change impacts including sea level rise, greater frequency of intense storms and drought will happen at a local level, a clear plan developed by local and central government is critical.
“I congratulate the new Government and Climate Change Minister James Shaw for addressing this issue with honesty, transparency and alacrity,” Mr Cull says.
“This report reinforces what LGNZ has been highlighting for some time, which is that adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change requires strong leadership from both central and local government and a clear, joint plan of attack.
“Many councils have started adaptation work and want to do more, but need central leadership and support, community buy-in and resourcing. Local government would benefit from working collaboratively with the Government to develop a plan for adaptation which clearly allocates roles and responsibilities, and addresses the costs associated with climate change adaptation.”
Mr Cull says given the emphasis the new Government has placed on climate change, and the messages to date from Climate Change Minister James Shaw, we can expect to see movement soon. He says there is also a lack of understanding among communities about what the impacts of climate change will actually be, and a nationwide education and information campaign is needed.
“This is critical as the impacts of climate change are already evident in New Zealand and will only become more pronounced in years to come.”
The Coastal Hazards and Climate Change Guidance will help councils make decisions about coastal areas.
“We welcome this new guidance, but again we think there needs to be a nationwide conversation in New Zealand about what the impacts of this sea level rise will be on communities – to buildings, infrastructure and land,” Mr Cull says.
“Climate change is a problem with both national and local implications, and needs both national and local solutions.”