Recovering from recent severe weather events

Our focus is on supporting councils and communities with the significant recovery job ahead and building Aotearoa New Zealand’s resilience to future events.  

How we’re supporting the recovery

We are working alongside other government agencies to support the broader response to the severe weather.

In the coming months our focus will be on: 

  • supporting councils and communities with the significant recovery job ahead  
  • building Aotearoa New Zealand’s resilience to future events. 

We have several main work areas to support the recovery:  

  • Changing laws to better enable recovery
  • Stronger risk management for areas at risk of natural hazards
  • Climate adaptation and resilience.

The focus is on enabling recovery in the immediate term, and adaptation and resilience going forward.

Changing laws to better enable recovery

Orders in Council - helping communities continue their recovery

The Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Legislation Act allows a number of laws to be changed to help communities continue their recovery from recent severe weather events.

The mechanism that will be used to do this is a piece of secondary legislation called an Order in Council. These Orders in Council have been developed in response to requests from the community and local government on what issues they are facing as they recover from the impacts of the severe weather.

Read more about Orders in Council 

Severe Weather Emergency Legislation Act

The Severe Weather Emergency Legislation Act passed into law on 20 March 2023. It is an omnibus Act which makes changes to a number of existing laws including the Resource Management Act.

There are three main changes to the Resource Management Act. These are time-limited to expire once we move beyond the recovery phase. 

A second law the Severe Weather Emergency Recovery Legislation Act passed into law on 12 April 2023. It introduces an Order in Council mechanism to add flexibility to address specific issues recovering communities may be experiencing.

Read more on the Beehive website

The legislation is similar to what was passed following the Hurunui/Kaikōura earthquakes, modifying existing laws in order to remove constraints on recovery.

First main change

For owners or occupiers of rural land in the severe weather-affected areas, the Act allows emergency or remedial actions to be carried out without a resource consent. The Act gives them 60 working days to tell councils what actions they’ve taken. Councils have the discretion to allow more than 60 working days.

  • This change is designed to help rural landowners and occupiers address urgent matters like removing silt, clearing slips and rebuilding smaller structures like retaining walls, culverts and bridges.
  • Owners and occupiers can only use these provisions where they consider the activity is needed to avoid injury or loss of life to humans or animals, or serious damage to land and property.
  • The action they take must be proportionate to the potential injury or damage.
  • Any actions taken must avoid, remedy or mitigate any adverse effects they cause to the environment.
  • The impacts of their actions must not cause significant adverse effects beyond the boundaries of the owner's or occupier’s land.
  • Any activities which are prohibited in national environmental standards or relevant district or regional plans aren’t covered by this change and remain prohibited.
  • Owners and occupiers must get written approval in advance for any actions they propose to take on culturally significant land. Without this permission, the usual activity status applies as found in the relevant national environmental standards or regional and district plans.
  • This change will be repealed on 1 April 2024, after which time all the usual requirements of the national environmental standards and relevant regional and district plan will again apply.

Read Undertaking emergency works following recent severe weather fact sheet and download a notice template to provide to your council [PDF, 231kb].

Second main change

For infrastructure providers and those carrying out public works, the RMA changes provide more time to notify councils and apply for retrospective consents for emergency work.

Infrastructure providers usually need to notify councils of the work within 7 days and apply for consent within 20 working days but this will be extended to give providers 100 working days to notify councils, and 160 working days to apply for consents. This will be repealed on 1 October 2024, after which timeframes would return to normal. 

Third main change

The Act makes changes to notice requirements for councils who are exercising emergency powers under the RMA to enter properties and prevent serious harm from occurring (eg, to clear a stream on private land which has become blocked and is threatening to flood surrounding land).

Councils usually have to tell the landowner or occupier when they enter a property, but given the scale of evacuations this will not always be practical. This Act enables councils to instead leave a written notice at the property. It will also be repealed on 1 October 2024, after which the usual notice requirements will again apply.

Better managing risks from natural hazards

The Ministry is scoping two proposed pieces of national direction to reduce the risk to people and property from natural hazards like flooding, landslips and coastal inundation. 

These are:

  • National direction for natural hazards
  • National policy statement on natural hazard decision-making.

The Ministry is working closely with Toka Tū Ake EQC to develop both proposals.

National direction for natural hazards

A more comprehensive national direction which will support councils to consistently identify and plan for the risks posed by natural hazards. This will incorporate earlier work on the NPS on Natural Hazard Decision-making. If progressed, we expect this to be developed within 18 months to two years. 

National policy statement on natural hazard decision-making 

In the interim a National policy statement on natural hazard decision-making (NPS) would be developed.

The NPS will set out how local authorities should consider natural hazard risk when making decisions on regional policy statements, regional plans, district plans and resource consents relating to new developments.

The NPS is expected to:

  • limit new building in areas that are at high risk from natural hazards
  • require actions to reduce risk for areas at moderate risk.

Is it not intended to reduce overall housing supply.

Next steps

Public consultation on the National Policy Statement opened on 18 September 2023 for an eight-week period. Feedback from consultation will inform final decisions on the NPS, which is expected to be in place in early 2024, providing councils with short term direction while a more comprehensive National Direction for Natural Hazards is developed.

Have your say on the Proposed National Policy Statement for Natural Hazard Decision-making

Climate adaptation and resilience

We are focused on how climate adaptation and resilience can be factored into the response to support local authorities and decision-makers.

This includes the Climate Adaptation Bill, planned to be introduced to Parliament this year, which will lay the foundations for a system for managed retreat.

We are actively looking at what more we can do in this space to support the recovery response.

Support from earlier in the severe weather response

Waste and contamination

Councils waste and silt management plans

We are supporting councils with their immediate waste and silt management plans.

Contribution to councils to help remove residential waste

The Government has announced a contribution of $15 million to help local councils remove residential waste from cyclone-affected areas.

We’ve heard from some councils that they don’t have the financial capacity to deal with all the waste generated by the recent severe weather, given the scale of these events. We know that further support will be required, but this funding provides some relief to communities as they recover. 

This support is in addition to the council’s own waste funding streams, as well as insurance and Earthquake Commission arrangements. 

Local councils are facing unprecedented damage from the cyclone. These funds are intended to help them to help their communities as fast as possible.

Ministerial Inquiry into Land Use

The Ministerial Inquiry into Tairāwhiti/Gisborne and Wairoa land-use was announced on 23 February 2023. This work is led by the Minister of Forestry and the Minister for the Environment.

The inquiry’s recommendations are assisting local and central government on issues like forestry practice, RMA plans and national direction — specifically the National Environmental Standards for Plantation Forestry.

Read more about the Ministerial inquiry

Assessing damaged land on the East Coast

We commissioned Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research to undertake a rapid assessment of land damaged by the cyclone in February 2023.

Key findings

Manaaki Whenua based its assessment on satellite photos of Tairāwhiti/Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay and Wairarapa coast. It found that:

  • there were more than 300,000 landslides, with each landslide comprising about 1,000 tonnes of soil, the equivalent weight of 548 single-cab utes
  • in southern Hawke’s Bay/northern Wairarapa hill country, land under native vegetation was 90 per cent less likely to slide, while land under exotic forest was 80 per cent less likely to slide
  • in northern Hawke’s Bay, land under native vegetation was 90 per cent less likely to slide, while land under exotic forest was 60 per cent less likely to slide
  • in Tairāwhiti/Gisborne coastal hill country, land under native vegetation was 50 per cent less likely to slide than hill country pastoral land. Land under exotic forestry and pasture had the same extent of land sliding.  

Understanding the land damage assessment

The assessment indicates that hill country land under native forest was less affected than land under exotic forest. Areas in pasture and harvested pine were the most affected. The assessment doesn’t draw conclusions about the underlying reasons.

A more in-depth study is needed before conclusions about the soil stabilisation effectiveness of different types of tree/vegetation cover can be made.

Pine is often planted on hill country areas that have been in pasture, and so is likely to have a history of soil disturbance. In Tairāwhiti/Gisborne, pine was planted in areas with extensive erosion damage in an attempt to stabilise the land. Regenerating native vegetation takes longer than pine to stabilise highly erodible areas.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) is funding GNS Science to map landslides at a finer scale. This will provide more definitive information than provided in the preliminary rapid assessment.

The Manaaki Whenua and GNS Science reports will form part of the scientific advice that informs the Ministry’s severe weather integrated response and its policy advice to the Government.

Read Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research’s assessment [PDF, 3.6MB].