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The government has released the country’s first ever plan on how we adapt to climate change.
The government has released the country’s first ever plan on how we adapt to climate change.

The BulletinAugust 3, 2022

NZ’s plan for adapting to climate change

The government has released the country’s first ever plan on how we adapt to climate change.
The government has released the country’s first ever plan on how we adapt to climate change.

The government has released the first part of the national plan on how we adapt to climate change today. Despite a push from large insurance companies, we’re still in love with buying coastal property, writes Anna Rawhiti-Connell in The Bulletin.

National Adaptation Plan released today

The government has released the first part of the National Adaptation Plan today which marks the beginning of concrete plans to adapt to our changing climate.

The plan is being launched by climate change minister James Shaw at Ōwhiro Bay in Wellington, a place that has become something of a poster child for new research showing sea levels rising twice as fast as previously thought. In 2020, a southerly-powered storm deposited a six-metre swell across Ōwhiro Bay Parade.

The plan which covers an initial six year period through until 2028, will see climate change adaptation embedded into government policy. It will ensure communities have the information and support they need to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

It includes:

  • A joined up approach that will support community-based adaptation with national policies and legislation
  • Providing all New Zealanders with information about local climate risks via a new online data portal
  • Better information for home-buyers, with a consistent approach to recording natural hazard information on LIMs
  • Embedding climate change adaptation into policies and approaches right across Government
  • A new platform to support Māori-led approaches to adaptation planning, and protection for at-risk cultural sites of significance
  • Legislation to ensure a consistent approach to supporting those communities most at risk

“Climate change is a global challenge, but its impacts are felt in our local communities and in our homes. Taking action to prepare for these impacts will make our communities safer, protect our environment, and ensure our towns and cities can continue to support people’s jobs and livelihoods” said minister of climate change, James Shaw.

This morning, RNZ’s Hamish Cardwell said the plan will include an outline for the next six years of what’s called “managed retreat” – moving communities out of harm’s way. Not included in today’s plan is a law governing what happens if people are forced to retreat from parts of the coast. It also doesn’t include who will cover the costs if damaged property isn’t covered by insurance or if whole communities have to move away from at-risk coastline.

Cardwell has spoken to engineers, scientists and local residents in at-risk areas about what our options might be and how we coordinate efforts across central and local government and within our own communities. In Thames-Coromandel, the regional council is consulting on shoreline management plans. The plan’s conclusions will be shared with Waka Kotahi to be considered in roading decisions for the district. Meanwhile, the Coromandel has overtaken Auckland as the second most expensive place to buy property in the country.

What happens if your house has a 30-year mortgage term but becomes uninsurable?

With all the criticism of the Reserve Bank’s (RBNZ) split focus swirling around, interest.co.nz’s Gareth Vaughan argues that the RBNZ should be paying attention to climate change. What that potentially looks like beyond the saying of the words is for economists and experts to debate, but it’s safe to say climate change risk is now an embedded issue within some of our largest businesses. Vaughan details things I’ve never thought of as an average punter, like the mismatch between long home loan terms and the insurance industry’s annual policy renewal cycle. If the bank has lent you money on a property on a 30 year term, what happens if that property becomes uninsurable because of flooding risk at any point over that time, or loses value because it’s too close to the sea?

$200m paid out in extreme weather damage claims over last year

Vaughan quotes Tower Insurance’s chair, Michael Stiassny who recently said: “The biggest challenge we collectively face is how we help protect our world in the face of climate change.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, in the face of the $200m paid out in extreme weather damage claims in the year to June 2022, the insurance industry is now at the forefront of raising awareness of the risk of failing to adapt to climate change. Up against the many warnings we’ve had about climate change over the years, sea level rise seems to have had a cut-through. The sea level data released in May was described as a “bombshell”. It might be cynical to suggest this, but the country’s love affair with property probably helped.

We still like to live beside the seaside

Despite all the warnings and raised consciousness, Stuff’s Miriam Bell asks why we’re still buying property by the sea. There has been very little impact on property values in areas at risk of being impacted by sea-level rise, with coastal properties a prime example. A study of property prices in South Dunedin found they dropped 15% on average immediately after severe flooding in the area in 2015 but they recovered over the next 12 to 18 months. Stuff’s Sinead Gill has a feature on the community-led effort in South Dunedin to get to grips with the information about their area, and find hope and practical solutions.

Keep going!