Role of councils in preparing for and adapting to climate change

Under the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) local government is required to consider the effects of a changing climate on communities. It is also required to incorporate climate change into existing frameworks, plans, projects and standard decision-making procedures. A climate change perspective is now integrated into activities such as flood management, water resources, planning, building regulations and transport.

One of the changes introduced by the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 is that “the management of significant risks from natural hazards” is a new matter of national importance in section 6 of the RMA.

Quality Planning website

The Quality Planning website has a guidance note that provides:

  • an overview of how particular regard may be given to the effects of climate change
  • information on expected climate change effects in New Zealand
  • advice on methods for considering and addressing climate change effects under the RMA.

Case studies underway to understand issues councils face when responding to climate change

MfE is looking at the experiences of Hawke’s Bay and other councils in dealing with climate change. The aim is to see what national-level changes (legislative changes, funding models etc) may be needed to assist councils and their communities to respond to climate change impacts.

MfE and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council have developed the first case study. It investigates challenges with the implementation of the Clifton to Tangoio 2120 Coastal Hazards Strategy.

Information to assist councils to understand and plan for climate change impacts

We released new climate projections for New Zealand in June 2016 and updated guidance on coastal hazards and climate change in December 2017.

Local climate change risk assessments: a guide

This guide is to support councils and communities to identify and pro-actively manage their climate risks.

The guide sets out a risk assessment framework for local use which is broadly consistent with the National Climate Change Risk Assessment (NCCRA) framework. The NCCRA gives a national picture of how Aotearoa New Zealand may be affected by the impacts of climate change.

We worked with external risk specialists, local government representatives, and Māori experts to develop this guide. It aims to provide a standardised approach for local risk assessments, while also allowing flexibility to reflect local values.

Local risk assessments will likely inform the next national assessment due in 2026 and national adaptation planning and legislation. The National Adaptation Plan sets out the Government’s adaptation work programme for the next six years in response to the risks identified in the NCCRA.

The guide is written mainly for local government representatives to lead and implement, in partnership with local Māori, on behalf of communities. However, anyone carrying out a local assessment can use it.

We want to hear from you

This is the first iteration of the guide and we are keen to get feedback on it. We will review the guide and add case studies so please get in touch to share your experiences by emailing