New Zealand’s local government sector stands on the front line in the fight against climate change, according to the initial findings of a new report, which shows that billions of dollars of roading, water, and public transport infrastructure are at risk from as little as a half a metre sea level rise.
Today’s LGNZ Climate Change Symposium discussed the challenges posed by climate change and the work underway to identify the local government infrastructure and assets at risk from sea level rise, councils’ work to adapt to the changing climate, and council engagement with communities to manage the impacts of coastal hazards.
The research, currently underway by Local Government New Zealand with engineering and environment consultancy Tonkin + Taylor, has so far revealed that billions of dollars of local government infrastructure and assets at risk from sea level rise, and that the impacts will be most significant for water infrastructure and roads. The completed report with full findings is expected to be released later this year.
“The initial findings demonstrate that councils will be significantly impacted by sea level rise, and that certain regions will experience more significant impacts than others. Councils need to start thinking now about what they can do in the short, medium and long-term to ensure that they understand the risks and begin building resilience for their communities” says Tonkin + Taylor Infrastructure Resilience Specialist James Hughes.
The potential financial impact of climate change is significant and the local government sector, at its Annual General Meeting in July, voted in favour of a remit that asks LGNZ to advocate to central government to establish a Climate Change Adaptation Fund to improve local level and community participation in responding to climate change.
“The impacts of climate change will continue to be experienced New Zealand-wide with increased frequency and intensity of extreme events such as flooding, droughts, and increased coastal inundation. Over the past year the impacts have been felt particularly keenly by local government in coastal areas,” commented LGNZ President Dave Cull.
“Adaptation to climate change is an absolutely necessary and ongoing process for decisions relating to infrastructure, urban development, and land and water management and the cost and affordability of adaptation for communities, iwi, businesses and councils is a significant issue and one that councils and ratepayers cannot fund alone.”
Mr Cull says LGNZ’s proposed Local Government Risk Agency would build on the research that has been undertaken and provide comprehensive and consistent risk management expertise, knowledge and tools to local authorities across the country. It would help to manage the risks presented and exacerbated by climate change, but also risks associated with other natural disasters such as earthquakes.
“It’s critical that we have these conversations about sensitive issues that we must address if our communities are to be resilient.”