Climate Change Adaption

August 31, 2023


INZ is pleased to finally see some tangible progress in the climate adaptation space. The delay in the development of the third component of the resource management legislation suite has meant that some of the lessons from the extreme weather events experienced in early 2023 can be applied. Aotearoa now has a real sense of the size, scale and urgency of the potential climate impact on our communities and regions.

Earlier this month, Climate Change Minister James Shaw tasked Parliament’s Environment Select Committee with undertaking an inquiry into community-led retreat and adaptation funding. The inquiry would commence before the election but not report back until later in the year. As we have seen with recent extreme weather events, the impact on communities, businesses, physical and social infrastructure is immense.

Establishing an enduring national principled framework and approach for having the hard conversations around relocation and future decision making is urgently needed. Currently, we lack the legal powers for the inevitable relocation of some communities. The question of who pays for this is a challenge. A fair and equitable approach is needed. Partnerships with Māori iwi and hapū are needed in addition to local government.

Minister Shaw has suggested that the terms of reference could include:

  • The current approach to community-led retreat and adaptation funding, its strengths, challenges, risks, and costs
  • Lessons from severe weather and natural disasters
  • Effective mechanisms for community-led decision making
  • Institutional arrangements, including roles and responsibilities of government agencies, iwi and hapū
  • Māori participation, Crown obligations, giving effect to the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi, and integrating mātauranga Māori
  • The legislation and regulations, including the resource management system and any changes needed
  • Regulatory powers and incentives to support adaptation before and after extreme weather
  • Funding sources, access to them and principles and criteria for cost sharing
  • Targets or indicators for assessing progress to more resilient communities and infrastructure.

The inquiry process allows for a wide range of views to be shared. Establishing an approach by which all future climate events impact decisions can take place and securing bipartisan political support will provide ongoing certainty for the people and communities affected. We won’t be starting from scratch each time and there will be fairness and consistency in the way these situations are handled.

In anticipation of this inquiry, the Ministry for the Environment has published a supporting Community -led retreat and adaptation funding – issues and options paper and the Report of the Expert Working Group on Managed Retreat which you can read here. Chaired by Sir Terence Arnold, the working group was commissioned to develop advice about the practical, legal and financial aspects of enabling managed retreat.

The technical report at just under 300 pages is comprehensive. Its recommendations include adoption of outcome statements and principles for planned relocation. A reframing of the concept of managed retreat to include social, cultural and psychological safety in the relocation is recommended. The process would be community centred but nationally enabled, with central government-funded compensation for the owners of properties potentially threatened by climate change. There is good alignment with the new regional spatial planning processes and the call for national direction on a more consistent risk assessment process.

The next step will be for the select committee to call for submissions and provide a closing date for these. This will be an important area of interest going forward as we seek to make our communities and infrastructure more resilient. As a sector, we need to ensure our expertise and views contribute to these fundamental discussions and policy development on this confronting topic as the climate changes and impacts all of us.