Experts react to Productivity Commission’s suggestions on funding for councils’ climate adaptation

Climate change comes into considerations, in the New Zealand Productivity Commission’s draft report on local government funding and financing arrangements.

Releasing the report, commission chair Murray Sherwin said the inquiry had been initiated in response to a perception that rates have become less affordable over time, but the commission found no clear evidence of that.  Rates, overall, have broadly kept pace with population and income growth over the past three decades, but have not become relatively more burdensome.

“However, even with a robust funding base, there are important areas where local governments will need assistance in the future.”

Sherwin is talking – among other things – about rising sea levels and more intensive rain events and their threat to  local government infrastructure, especially roads and waste/storm water infrastructure.

“These risks are very large, but not evenly distributed across the nation. There is a case for establishing mechanisms that assist in sharing the cost of research and policy analysis, and spreading the financial risk that would otherwise be unmanageable for the most affected communities. Continue reading

Recent events signal need to prepare for climate change

This year’s Tasman fires and last year’s Cyclone Gita are giving the New Zealand public a taste of what could be coming as our climate changes, says Dr Judy Lawrence, Senior Research Fellow at the Climate Change Research Institute, Victoria University of Wellington.  This is part of the message she will be delivering to The New Zealand Agricultural Climate Change Conference 2019, to be held in Palmerston North on April 8-9.

New Zealand’s most important agricultural conference on climate change for two years will bring together scientists, government policy advisors, farmers and industry leaders to discuss the theme of meeting the challenges of climate change with respect to farming.

Dr Lawrence was the co-chair of the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working group that reported to Government in December 2017 and May 2018 with a stock-take of adaptation action and recommendations on adapting to climate change.

She says events like the Tasman fires and Cyclone Gita are a possible indication of things to come.

“Before that in 2017 the south of New Zealand experienced a very heavy rainfall event that stretched our resources. Coastal properties in low-lying roads have been flooded in Hawkes Bay, Wellington and the West Coast.

“In Bay of Plenty and the Coromandel, estuary margins are increasingly being flooded. These events will become more intense and, as the seas keep rising, flooding will be permanent in some areas and occur also on sunny days.”

Dr Lawrence says these ‘events’ underline the urgency of getting organised to deal with the changing climate risk profile that confronts this country.

She will outline several actions that can be taken to adapt to the challenges ahead, on the second day of the conference.

The conference, organised by the New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre in partnership with the Ministry for Primary Industries and the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, will be held at the Palmerston North Conference and Function Centre, 354 Main Street.

Presentations will be given by New Zealand science, industry and policy leaders.

The programme will draw on published scientific work and the research projects being conducted by the Agricultural Gas Research Centre, the Pastoral Green Gas Research Consortium and by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Research Programme.

Attendance is free but registration is required. For more information or to register please go to

Technical working group calls for urgent action on climate change

A report from the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group urges better planning and resourcing and strong leadership to prepare New Zealand for a warmer, wetter and wilder future.

The report, released today, makes 21 major recommendations as a starting point.

It says the Government should urgently set about first identifying what needs to be done and who does what along with undertaking a countrywide risk assessment to inform it.

It also suggests the Local Government Act 2002 be changed to specify climate change adaptation as a function of local government and arm local authorities with a clearer mandate.

Strong leadership is called for, too – the Government should make it clear to the public that climate change is a priority, from a review of policy and legislation to factoring climate impacts into government and council procurement processes.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw issued a press statement (HERE) to accompany the release of the recommendations.

The group’s Co-Chair, Dr Judy Lawrence, says in the statement that even if the world stopped all greenhouse gas emissions today, our climate would still change for centuries.

“Previous emissions take time to show their impact and are long lasting. We are already seeing the effects of climate change with sea level rise, more floods and hotter temperatures and we can expect further losses and damage,” says Dr Lawrence.

“We need robust data to assess our risks and see where and who is most vulnerable and exposed. This will enable us to put a national plan into action which is independently monitored and reported on.

“Adaptation needs to be funded so that there are incentives for people and organisations to take adaptive action. All of this work needs to be supported by strong leadership.

“The group has conveyed its expectation that the government will put in place a coordinated set of measures. These will enable New Zealand to reduce its exposure and vulnerability to the changing climate.”

Mr Shaw said becoming climate-resilient was a significant challenge.

“But it’s clear from CCATWG’s report that with the right plans and tools in place, we have a greater chance of managing the transition,” says Mr Shaw.

“There is new money in Budget 2018 for resourcing the Government’s climate change priorities.

“I see risk assessment as a priority and I intend to bring options to Cabinet soon for a decision on how and when to do a risk assessment.

“In the coming weeks we will be asking New Zealanders how they see New Zealand adapting to the effects of climate change as part of the Zero Carbon Bill consultation.

“We are all in this together and we have a responsibility to future generations to make changes now and build on what has been started. This will provide a framework for the future. I urge everyone to be part of the conversation.

“Taking early action in the right areas is likely to avoid the need for more abrupt action later,” says Mr Shaw.

The report can be read HERE.

People can register to have their say on how New Zealand becomes climate resilient as part of the Zero Carbon Bill HERE.