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Climate change and local government: What the national adaptation plan means for you

We’re consulting on a draft national plan to help Aotearoa New Zealand adapt to and minimise the harmful impacts of climate change.  

We're asking for feedback from local government on the draft plan.

Consultation will close at 11:59pm on 3 June 2022.

Read the full consultation document and the draft national adaptation plan, and have your say.

The national adaptation plan

The Government is putting together a national plan to help Aotearoa New Zealand adapt to the impacts of climate change that are locked in and can’t be reversed. Lowering emissions can reduce the impacts of climate change but won’t eliminate them all. The kind of changes we’re seeing are rising sea levels, more frequent flooding, coastal and inland erosion, and drought. The weather is more turbulent and less predictable. 

We need to change how we do things so we can thrive in a different climate. The national adaptation plan is a first step towards addressing the risks from the changing climate. We have a clear picture of the top priority risks from the 2020 National Climate Change Risk Assessment. They range across our natural environment, homes, buildings and places, infrastructure, communities, economy and financial systems.

For local government, priority risks include those relating to water security, communities and natural ecosystems. The plan outlines what action we will take in response to the risks, to prepare for the future.

Local government is on the front line of climate change

Around the country, many councils are already working with communities and iwi/Māori to address the impacts of climate change. Some are developing adaptation plans and long-term adaptive pathways that proactively manage future risk. However, climate preparedness varies from region to region.

In response, the national adaptation plan:

  • supports local government to take adaptation action, and outlines a programme of work to provide guidance and resources to encourage action
  • aims to help local government plan for future impacts and not just respond to events as they occur
  • takes a long-term view by ensuring governance and decision-making frameworks are fit for purpose and climate resilience is integrated into government strategies and policies
  • aims to build coordination and collaboration between central and local government, communities, iwi/Māori and businesses as we work together on innovative and effective adaptation solutions.

The plan does this by bringing together existing actions and proposed future work to:

  • establish institutional settings fit for a changing climate
  • provide data and information to enable everyone to assess and reduce their own climate risks
  • embed climate resilience across government strategies and policies.

Emissions reduction plan

The national adaptation plan focuses on how New Zealand can adapt to the impacts of climate change that are with us now and can’t be reversed. At the same time, reducing emissions and minimising future climate change is just as important. This work will be set out in the emissions reduction plan to be released in May.

Every sector, community and part of the environment will continue be affected by climate change. All will need to adapt and build climate resilience, while reducing emissions. Many groups already have work underway.

Managed retreat

An important action in the national adaptation plan is to develop legislation that will address the complex issues associated with managed retreat. This will complete the suite of legislation being developed as part of resource management system reform.

What is managed retreat?

Adapting to our changing climate means people and communities may have to alter how and where they live. One option is managed retreat, which may be necessary to reduce or eliminate exposure to intolerable risk.

It’s a carefully planned and managed process of relocating assets, activities and sites of cultural significance away from at-risk areas.

Local government is responsible for planning for and responding to natural hazard risks in their community. This includes risks exacerbated by climate change.

The impacts of climate change are being felt now. Our existing frameworks for managing these risks are under increasing pressure. The tools currently available to councils were designed for a more predictable climate. Those councils that have attempted small-scale managed retreats have encountered a range of difficulties with the current settings, and different approaches have been tried.

While most of the planning for managed retreat will be done through mechanisms in the proposed Natural and Built Environments Act and Strategic Planning Act, the new managed retreat legislation will support managed retreats to be implemented.

How can you find out more or provide feedback?

Please take the opportunity to have your say on the draft national adaptation plan. Local government is a critical actor in enabling New Zealand to adapt to the locked-in impacts of climate change. You can make a submission until Friday 3 June.

Read the draft national adaptation plan

Read our consultation material

Attend a workshop targeted to local government:

Read the plan summary

Make a submission

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