Government agencies with actions in this chapter

  • Manatū Hauora – Ministry of Health (MOH)
  • Ministry for the Environment (MfE)
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE)
  • Ministry of Defence (MOD)
  • Ministry of Education (MoE)
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT)
  • Ministry of Social Development (MSD)
  • National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA)
  • New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF)
  • Te Puni Kōkiri – Ministry of Māori Development (TPK)

Why these actions are important for building resilience

Communities are diverse, and experience the impacts of climate change in various ways. Building and maintaining strong communities will equip New Zealanders with the right tools to adapt and mitigate these impacts. Communities that are resilient in the face of climate change will be empowered to respond to risks and work together to support social, economic, and cultural wellbeing.

Significant risks addressed in this chapter

H = Human

  • H1: Risks to social cohesion and community wellbeing from the displacement of individuals, families and communities due to climate change impacts.
  • H2: Risks of exacerbating existing inequities and creating new and additional inequities due to differential distribution of climate change impacts.

Objectives relevant to critical actions

SW = System-wide

C = Communities

  • SW1: Legislation and institutions are fit for purpose and provide clear roles and responsibilities
  • C1: Enable communities to adapt.
  • C2: Support vulnerable people and communities.
  • C3: Support communities when they are disrupted or displaced.
  • C4: The health sector is prepared and can support vulnerable communities affected by climate change.

Critical actions relevant to this chapter

  • Modernise the emergency management system to improve the regulatory framework which underpins emergency management in Aotearoa.
  • Develop the Health National Adaptation Plan to prepare the health sector to meet the needs of communities in a changing climate.
  • Raise awareness of climate hazards to make emergency preparedness a part of everyday life.

Why we need to take action

A planned response is essential for individuals and communities to adapt.

Climate change is already affecting how we live. The impacts we face will increase, so it is vital we are prepared. We will meet challenges. Individuals and communities may need to move away from high-risk areas.

We may need to think differently about property and land rights if some places become too risky to live in. We may also need to welcome people from smaller Pacific nations who have been displaced by the impacts of climate change.

Some individuals and communities are more exposed because of where they live. For example, many Māori communities are in rural areas along coastlines and near major rivers. Rural communities, including farming communities, will be disproportionately affected.

Vulnerable community members include those experiencing poverty, Pacific peoples, refugees, migrants, women, older people, disabled people and people with existing health issues. These groups will also require support to adapt.

Communities vary greatly in their connections and ability to adapt. In some areas, communities have strong connections and can withstand many external challenges and adapt. Others are more disconnected and under-resourced.

The effects of climate change will make us more reliant on one another for our practical needs, and for our emotional and spiritual wellbeing.

For this plan, community is defined geographically as a group of people living in the same town, suburb, area or marae/hapū. It also includes the broader meaning of social and cultural groups, such as Pacific communities, ethnic communities and minorities, older people, disabled and mobility-compromised people, low-income groups, women, rural communities, rainbow and LGBTQI+ communities, children and youth, and those experiencing deprivation, ill health or isolation. Aotearoa is home to diverse communities with different needs, interests and backgrounds.

Significant risks

The actions in this chapter are designed to achieve these objectives and address the human domain risks in the National Climate Change Risk Assessment 2020. In particular:

  • H1: Risks to social cohesion and community wellbeing from the displacement of individuals, families and communities due to climate change impacts
  • H2: Risks of exacerbating existing inequities and creating new and additional inequities due to differential distribution of climate change impacts.

Local government: Helping communities to adapt

Local government is the system of locally elected members that represent communities and make decisions about their issues, such as managing climate impacts.

Local authorities have a responsibility to help and work with communities to prepare for, and adapt to, the physical effects of climate change.

In enabling the communities they represent to adapt, these authorities have three main roles:

  • as owners of infrastructure that communities rely on for their wellbeing
  • as planners and regulators of development
  • as agencies closest to exposed communities.

Around Aotearoa, many councils are now working in partnership with communities and hapū, iwi and Māori. Some are also setting up dynamic adaptive pathways to engage their communities and work towards long-term solutions for highest-risk areas.

As owners of infrastructure that communities rely on for their wellbeing

Local authorities own much of the infrastructure that communities rely on for their day-to-day lives and livelihoods. However, many of these assets are directly at risk from sea-level rise and adverse weather events (eg, more frequent and intense storms and floods).

Authorities will need to carefully manage this infrastructure and design it with higher levels of protection, so their communities can thrive into the future. This includes three waters, local roads and other assets, such as buildings and community amenities, parks, sports fields and airports. Nature-based solutions – such as wetlands, rain gardens and swales, and green roofs and walls – can be effective against flood risk.

As planners and regulators of development

Local authorities have primary responsibility for managing natural hazard risk and adaptation. In particular, they are responsible for planning and regulating development.* Directing development away from high-risk areas will be critical to reducing the future exposure to climate risks and minimising the long-term costs of adaptation. In urban development planning, councils will need to consider both adaptation and mitigation for communities. This includes:

  • achieving compact urban form that is well linked to public transport and jobs, and in areas with less exposure to climate impacts
  • directing development away from areas exposed to flooding or wildfire
  • requiring additional water storage in urban and rural areas as part of adapting to drought.

Local planning documents inform communities about natural hazard and climate risks via hazard maps and viewers. They also identify and can protect areas of cultural significance to hapū, iwi and Māori and communities that might be affected.

District councils also operate the Land Information Memoranda (LIM) system. This provides information to people looking to buy a property about the natural hazard or climate risks that might be associated with it.

* The Resource Management Act 1991 requires local government to consider the effects of a changing climate on communities, and incorporate climate change into its frameworks, plans, projects and decision-making. All of local government is charged with meeting the current and future needs of communities for infrastructure, local public services and regulatory functions (Local Government Act 2002, section 10(1)(b)).

As agencies closest to exposed communities

Local authorities help communities respond to climate emergencies such as flooding. Now and in future, councils will need to engage communities in reducing risk and adapting to a changing climate. They will need to lead the discussion about which actions are the best way to support the wellbeing of exposed communities.

This may require tough conversations. Options that will reduce long-run costs to communities may be unpopular among some residents in the short term. For example, a council might need to turn down requests for bigger and stronger protection structures when rising sea levels make these increasingly expensive and ineffective.

Local authorities will need to lead discussions about when and how to protect, accommodate or manage the retreat of communities from climate impacts. Some councils are already holding online conversations and in-person events to address this. Many councils have their own climate change plans, work programmes and advisors, and some have declared climate emergencies to drive action.

A view of Glenorchy township, looking over Lake Wakatipu and towards the Richardson Mountains in the background.

Case study: Adapting at the head of Lake Wakatipu: A changing landscape

The communities on Lake Wakatipu live with a range of natural hazards that arise from the alpine environment, nearby water bodies and the geological setting.

Natural hazards, particularly flooding, will likely become more severe in future. Flooding poses a substantial threat to the settlement of Glenorchy, which has been flooded many times (significantly in November 1999 and February 2020). Projected natural changes (growth of the nearby river deltas, rising riverbed levels and the likely re-routing of the Rees River) are expected to increase these risks.

The Otago Regional Council is working with the Queenstown Lakes District Council, the local community, iwi and stakeholders on a sustainable long-term response.

Community adaptation pathways

The Otago Regional Council is using ‘adaptation pathways’ to develop long-term solutions to natural hazards. The Ministry for the Environment developed this approach to support community-led projects.

Adaptation pathways account for change and complexity and follow a 10-step decision cycle: assessment (steps 1 to 4), development and implementation of an adaptation strategy (steps 5 to 8) and monitoring and review (steps 9 and 10). Community engagement is central to the cycle.

So far, the project team has carried out surveys, investigated the natural hazards and assessed cultural values. The Otago Regional Council has also engaged with the community to enable them to understand the issues, contribute to the adaptation and decide on future adaptation.

Supporting change

From this process, the Otago Regional Council will develop an adaptation strategy for the communities. This will allow for planning with more certainty in the face of ongoing change and increasing hazard risks. The pathways approach is relatively new and has mostly been used for coastal hazards rather than in an alpine area or place with many hazards. The lessons from this project will be useful for other communities facing similar risks.


Communities with high adaptive capacity are resilient to climate impacts.

The Government is putting in place initiatives to support resilient communities. This means:

  • communities can make decisions and put resources into suitable adaptive actions
  • government work programmes focus on ensuring no one is left behind
  • communities, hapū and our Tiriti partners are engaged
  • local knowledge, including mātauranga Māori, is valued
  • decision-making is transparent and builds and maintains trust
  • decisions support and balance rangatiratanga (self-determination) of Māori with kāwanatanga (the Government’s right to govern)
  • vulnerable people and communities are supported.

The Government has identified four objectives for resilient communities.

Table 11: Government objectives for resilient communities





Enable communities to adapt

  • Enable communities to provide resources and take action relevant to their unique situation; build and share knowledge of local issues in culturally appropriate ways; support community engagement and participation in decisions and provide information on adaptation options.


Support vulnerable people and communities

  • Understand where our most vulnerable people are and what they need and value, and provide them with support, knowledge and resources.


Support communities when they are disrupted or displaced

  • Support communities facing climate-related disruption and disasters so response and recovery can improve their wellbeing and social cohesion.


The health sector is prepared and can support vulnerable communities affected by climate change

  • Understand future climate-related health risks and take steps early to ensure the healthcare system is ready for these shifting demands. This includes meeting the mental and social wellbeing needs of whānau and communities in emergencies, and supporting them to recover, adapt and thrive.

Actions to support resilient communities

This chapter focuses on new actions to support resilient communities. However, a number of existing work programmes across central government can support the resilience of communities, including Whānau Ora projects, and funding and work programmes such as Rural Assistance Payments and Oranga Marae. Critical and supporting actions to support resilient communities are also set out in chapter 3: Enabling better risk-informed decisions, and chapter 5: Adaptation options including managed retreat. They include:

Addressing inequity

Actions must recognise and support the unique needs, values and circumstances of our communities.

Aotearoa is home to a range of diverse communities with different needs, interests and backgrounds. Some may be disproportionately affected by climate change, such as rural communities; those suffering from poverty; hapū, iwi and Māori; Pacific peoples; migrants; women; older people; and disabled people.

Examples of actions that will help mitigate disproportionate effects on these groups include:

Critical actions

Action 9.1: Modernise the emergency management system

Timeframe: Years 1–6 (2022–28)
Lead agency: NEMA
Relevant portfolio: Emergency Management
Primarily supports: Objective SW1
Status: Current

The National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) plans to modernise emergency management, including through legislative reforms, working with communities and organisations, clearer roles and responsibilities, and a strengthened partnership with Māori. This work seeks to improve the regulatory framework that underpins emergency management in Aotearoa. It will also sharpen the focus on disproportionately affected groups by strengthening community resilience.

By 2024, new emergency management legislation will be adopted, and a national emergency management plan and improved guidance will be provided across the emergency management system.

Action 9.2: Develop the Health National Adaptation Plan

Timeframe: Year 1 (2022/23)
Lead agency: MOH
Relevant portfolio: Health
Primarily supports: Objective C4
Status: Current

The Health National Adaptation Plan (HNAP) will complement the national adaptation plan and be supported by regional climate health action plans developed by the health sector. The aim of the HNAP is to prepare the health sector to meet the needs of communities in terms of the effects of climate change, including physical, mental and cultural health and wellbeing.

A key part of adaptation planning in the health sector is identifying vulnerable groups.

Vulnerability can be affected by many factors, including geography, demographics, socio-economic status, physical and mental health status, and family and community support. Vulnerability will be considered alongside risk in adaptation planning.

By the end of 2022, the HNAP is expected to be completed. From 2023, regional climate health action plans will be developed.

Supporting actions

Action 9.3: Develop the emergency management workforce

Timeframe: Years 1–6 (2022–28)
Lead agency: NEMA
Relevant portfolio: Emergency Management
Primarily supports: Objective SW1
Status: Current

Work is ongoing to expand the operational capacity and capability of the emergency management workforce at the national, regional and local levels. This will position Aotearoa better to address the increased frequency and severity of natural hazards and support all people in response and recovery.

Action 9.4: Implement the Climate Migration Action Plan

Timeframe: Years 1–2 (2022–24)
Lead agency: MFAT
Relevant portfolio: Foreign Affairs
Primarily supports: Objective C3
Status: Current

Key values of the Climate Migration Action Plan include retaining social and cultural identity for Pacific communities, and supporting Pacific peoples to live in their own countries where possible. This work aims to support these communities to grow and thrive despite the challenges of climate-related displacement and migration. This must be done in collaboration with Pacific communities and value their cultural and local knowledge.

One of the key actions is commissioning research to improve understanding of Pacific climate migration trends and the impact on communities in the Pacific and Aotearoa. The other main actions focus on using international development cooperation funds for Pacific Island countries. This will support a Pacific regional approach to climate mobility, and advance Aotearoa and Pacific interests in the international context.

Action 9.5: Continue with the reform of the health and disability system

Timeframe: Years 1–3 (2022–25)
Lead agency: MOH
Relevant portfolio: Health
Primarily supports: Objective C4
Status: Current

The structure of the health and disability system and the delivery of health services are undergoing a period of reform. The new system will be simpler and more coordinated, allowing for better and more consistent care, shaped by the voices of consumers, communities and whānau.

The Public Health Agency within the Manatū Hauora Ministry of Health (MOH) will lead and strengthen population and public health, with greater emphasis on equity and the wider determinants of health such as income, education and housing. It will use data and other sources of intelligence to design policies and services that are better able to prevent disease and to monitor environmental threats to public health.

Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand will lead the day-to-day running of the health system across New Zealand, with functions delivered at local, district, regional and national levels. Te Whatu Ora will manage all health services, including hospital and specialist services, and primary and community care. Primary health, wellbeing and community-based services will be planned and then purchased through the four regional divisions of Te Whatu Ora. Each region will work with their district offices, located closer to local communities, to develop and implement plans based on local needs to improve the health and wellbeing of communities. Te Whatu Ora will also be responsible for improving services and outcomes across the health system.

Te Aka Whai Ora | The Māori Health Authority is responsible for ensuring the health system works well for Māori by developing strategy and policy to drive better health outcomes for Māori and commissioning kaupapa Māori and other services targeting Māori communities. Local iwi/Māori partnership boards will help shape appropriate health and wellbeing services for local communities, through being an influencing and decision-making voice for hapū, iwi and Māori at a local level and supporting Te Tiriti partnerships throughout the system.

Action 9.6: Build community resilience through social cohesion

Timeframe: Years 2–5 (2023–27)
Lead agency: MSD
Relevant portfolio: Social Development and Employment
Primarily supports: Objective C1
Status: Current

This work will improve inclusion and participation in society and build community resilience to lessen instability and isolation caused by climate change. The aim is to support the understanding of diversity within and across communities to allow everyone to feel safe and belong, and to access opportunities.

Action 9.7: Strengthen teaching and learning related to climate change

Timeframe: Years 1–6 (2022–28)
Lead agency: MOE
Relevant portfolio: Associate Education
Primarily supports: Objective C1
Status: Current

This work will improve community resilience by addressing inequities in learning outcomes that impact on lifelong wellbeing. It will support early learning services, schools and kura to include understanding of, and responses to, climate change in their local curricula and marau ā-kura (living, breathing curriculum), as well as learning that is important for social cohesion. The aim is to support all children and young people to grow as lifelong learners who are connected to the environment and their communities, and actively involved in a sustainable future.

Action 9.8: Continue to overhaul the welfare system 

Timeframe: Years 1–6 (2022–28)
Lead agency: MSD
Relevant portfolio: Social Development and Employment
Primarily supports: Objective C2
Status: Current

This action will make ongoing improvements in support – such as for employment, health and communities – and in incomes for those interacting with the welfare system. This aims to achieve the Government’s vision of a welfare system that ensures people have an adequate income and standard of living; are treated with, and can live in, dignity; and can participate meaningfully in their communities.

Action 9.9: Expand current funding for proactive community resilience

Timeframe: Years 1–6 (2022–28)
Lead agency: TPK
Relevant portfolio: Māori Development
Primarily supports: Objective C1
Status: Proposed

This will seek to expand funding for Māori to build their community resilience through the COVID-19 pandemic, and plug funding gaps for communities to carry out their long-term resilience plans.

Funding would be decentralised by expanding the scope of funds provided through Whānau Ora. Whānau Ora reaches Māori and Pacific communities as some of our most socio-economically vulnerable, but is accessible to all communities. Funding will be available for communities to proactively future-proof and adapt to the best of their ability, to whatever adversity comes their way.

Future proposed work programmes

Action 9.10: Implement an income insurance scheme to support adaptive capacity of communities and the economy

Timeframe: Years 1–3 (2022–25)
Lead agency: MBIE
Relevant portfolio: Social Development and Employment
Primarily supports: Objective C2
Status: Proposed

To better protect workers, whānau, households, communities and the wider economy, the Government is developing a proposal for a New Zealand income insurance scheme [MBIE website], which would support workers with a proportion of income replacement for up to seven months if they lose their job through no fault of their own due to a redundancy or a health condition or disability.

Workers would have the financial security to find a job that matches their skills, needs and aspirations. Businesses would be able to better match workers to jobs. This policy would reduce the economic impacts of a changing climate on workers and communities by, for example, cushioning the impact of a large employer closing or resizing in a small town or region, and enabling workers to transition to new job opportunities afforded by changes in the economy.

If a decision is made to introduce the proposed scheme, the Government would introduce legislation in 2022 and the scheme would start operating in 2024/25. Introducing an income insurance scheme would be an important step change that lets us manage the challenges and harness the opportunities that lie ahead for Aotearoa.

Action 9.11: Develop and deliver initiatives in Responding to the Climate Crisis: An Implementation Plan (2019)

Timeframe: Years 1–6 (2022–28)
Lead agency: MOD; NZDF
Relevant portfolio: Defence
Primarily supports: Objectives SW2 and SW3
Status: Proposed

This plan set out goals and objectives in response to the Defence assessment Responding to the Climate Crisis: An Implementation Plan [PDF, 3.5 MB], which explores the links between climate change and security, and how climate change will be a driver for future Defence Force operations. It underscores the importance of working with, and learning from, our Pacific partners to understand and respond to intensifying climate impacts.

The plan identifies actions Defence will take as part of a broader government programme on climate change and sustainability. It sets out initiatives for mitigation and adaptation of Defence Force infrastructure, capability and response operations that protect the security of New Zealanders and the region. Defence will also work with national security and emergency services sector agencies on system reforms.

Action 9.12: Produce guidance and tools for monitoring and evaluating the impact of adaptation initiatives

Timeframe: Year 3 (2024/25)
Lead agency: MfE
Relevant portfolio: Climate Change
Primarily supports: Objective SW2
Status: Proposed

This will help ensure adaptation actions effectively increase our resilience and manage the risks we face. Monitoring is essential for an effective plan, and this guidance will help users identify signals that an action is no longer meeting its objectives. Tools such as real options analysis (ROA), online calculators and other assessment tools will help with adaptation decisions.

Action 9.13: Review of active labour market programmes

Timeframe: Years 1–3 (2022–25)
Lead agency: MBIE, MSD
Relevant portfolio: Social Development and Employment
Primarily supports: Objective C2
Status: Proposed

Active labour market programmes (ALMPs) assist people into employment (including removing barriers to their ability to get or retain a job, or to move between jobs), increase earning capacity and improve the functioning of the labour market. The Government has been reviewing the ALMPs it provides and funds. It has committed to expanding existing, and introducing new, ALMPs to support people into work, or back to work, and to take up new job opportunities arising from changes in the economy. ALMPs will reduce the impact of a changing climate on workers and communities.

The review has focused on nationally provided ALMPs, but the Government will continue to deliver ALMPs in, and partner with, local communities, iwi, hapū and Māori businesses through regional contracting and partnerships.

Other actions across this plan will contribute to resilient communities

Actions in the natural environment domain will also contribute to resilient communities, including:

Climate-resilient infrastructure will support greater community resilience. The needs of communities are strongly connected to the actions in chapter 7: Homes, buildings and places. A community’s wellbeing is linked with the housing, gathering places, sites of significance and wāhi tapu within it. Relevant actions include:

A panorama view taken from the Mt Iron summit. A township can be seen below and snow-covered hills appear in the distance.

Case study: Wildfire preparedness at Mount Iron, Wānaka

Extreme fire weather is increasing in Aotearoa and the number of people living at the rural–urban interface is also rapidly growing. During the 2020–21 fire season, more homes were destroyed due to fire weather and climate change than in any other fire season in the past century.

The conditions that led to Australia’s devastating 2019–20 ‘Black Summer’ fires are likely to occur in Aotearoa every three to 20 years – specifically in Central Otago, the Mackenzie Country and Marlborough. Research suggests that the general public does not fully understand the increasing wildfire risk or their mitigation options. More action is needed to build resilience so that communities across Aotearoa can respond to this increasing risk.

Some New Zealanders have started taking actions both individually and as a community to prepare for the increasing risk. A case study of the permanent residents of Mount Iron in Wānaka found they had high awareness of, and anxiety about, wildfire. Their views had been amplified by the October 2020 wildfire at Lake Ōhau, 70 kilometres away, which destroyed half the village (48 houses).

Mount Iron residents have voiced concerns about the increasing threat to both lives and property. Their concerns focus on decisions and rules in local development planning (eg, restrictions on removing protected, flammable kānuka vegetation around their properties), the flammability of cedar cladding of houses, and poor access for fire trucks on residents’ one-way evacuation routes.