Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) is calling the release of the National Climate Change Risk Assessment (NCCRA) framework a good first step in balancing New Zealand’s response to climate change.
The sector has long argued that central government needs to put adaptation policy on an equal footing with mitigation policy, particularly as many communities around the country are already feeling the impact of climate change related events.
“Today’s announcement is an acknowledgement that the effects of climate change on New Zealand are already baked in for at least the next century in the form of more severe storm events, unpredictable weather patterns, and rising sea levels,” said LGNZ President Dave Cull.
“That’s why it is vital that we as a country act now to put the right regulatory rules and systems in place ahead of time, so that our communities can be more resilient in the face of these challenges. Today’s announcement is a welcome first step towards putting these regulations in place.”
LGNZ, the peak body representing all 78 district, unitary, and regional councils, however stressed that the framework is merely the start of the process, and to be truly effective it needs to embrace a bottom-up focus.
“We know from places like South Dunedin, Tangoio and the Kaipara Flats, that the impacts of climate change related hazards and risk factors are place specific in nature, even if the root of the problem is the same,” said Mr Cull.
“A national picture snapshot of climate change related risks, which the framework will enable, is nice to have, but to be truly useful the focus needs to be much more granular. Only then can we have meaningful conversations with communities about how to respond in the face of disaster events.”
“While recognising that this is a first cut and an iterative process, the framework needs to be significantly simplified in future if it is to be useful to councils. If it requires the resources of a city to complete, then many smaller councils will find it challenging if not impossible to resource the work needed and meaningfully play their part in New Zealand’s response to the effects of climate change.”
“LGNZ is already focussing on this work, and we look forward to working with the Government and officials on getting the policy focus right sized.”
LGNZ recently released ‘Exposed: Climate change and infrastructure guidance document’, which provides councils with a consistent toolkit through which to assess community asset exposure to sea level rise and inland flooding.
This complements LGNZ’s other reports in the climate change policy space, including ‘Vulnerable’ which looked at local government infrastructure exposed to sea level rise, and a leading legal opinion on the litigation risks councils face related to their climate change decisions titled ‘Who's afraid of creative judges?’