Climate change is making some hazards worse.

In Aotearoa New Zealand we are significantly exposed to natural hazards such as floods and erosion.

Around 750,000 New Zealanders, and 500,000 buildings worth more than $145 billion are near rivers and in coastal areas already exposed to extreme flooding. There are also a number of major urban centres, taonga and sites of cultural importance at risk.

The impacts of natural hazards are felt by everyone. Climate change is making these events more frequent and severe.

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Managed retreat is just one type of adaptation response

We can adapt to climate impacts by:

  • protecting our assets (eg, sea walls)
  • accommodating for the change (eg, raising properties or rebuilding more resiliently)
  • managed retreat (moving away from the risk).  

Managed retreat identifies areas considered of intolerable risk and reduces or eliminates exposure to extreme weather events. It enables people to relocate their houses, activities, and sites of cultural significance away from at-risk areas within a planned period.

The image below illustrates the avoid, protect, accommodate and retreat options.

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We are developing a system for managed retreat that works for Aotearoa New Zealand

We intend to introduce legislation by the end of 2023 to address some of the more complex legal and technical issues associated with managed retreat, including governance and funding challenges.

We consulted publicly on managed retreat alongside the draft national adaptation plan in April and May this year.

We asked questions on:

  • what would make an effective managed retreat process
  • what roles various actors should have
  • other considerations to take into account.

In particular, we asked how managed retreat could affect Māori and Māori land.

There are many Māori communities in coastal fringes and lowland areas that are already exposed to flooding, erosion and sedimentation. These risks are projected to increase with sea-level rise. 

Other Māori-owned land is steep and susceptible to damage from high-intensity rainstorms. About 80 per cent of land and ocean-based resources owned by Māori are held in multiple or communal ownership.

Factors that may impact the ability for Māori to ‘retreat’ to other areas include:

  • the unique relationship and spiritual connection of Māori to the land and its natural resources
  • difficulty in moving sites of cultural significance such as wāhi tapu, pātaka kai and urupā.
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Your feedback is being taken on board

Over the coming year, officials will continue to develop advice to Ministers on what the managed retreat system and subsequent legislation should look like.

Feedback from draft national adaptation plan consultation has informed the national adaptation plan and will feed into the development and design of the Climate Adaptation Act.

If you submitted on the national adaptation plan and indicated that you wished to discuss managed retreat in more detail, we will be in touch shortly.

We will be starting a programme of engagement on the development of a managed retreat system shortly. This will include engagement with local government and iwi.