A low population density (and related long-distance infrastructure), a long coastline, varied geomorphology and an economy reliant on the primary production sector make New Zealand particularly vulnerable to climate-related risks. Climate change is expected to exacerbate these risks. Information on climate variability and observed changes in the New Zealand climate is contained in the document Climate Change Effects and Impacts Assessment: A Guide for Local Government in New Zealand.70 The key findings for New Zealand are presented below.
A number of natural oscillations operating over time scales ranging from seasons to decades influence New Zealand’s weather patterns. The two most important to New Zealand are the El Niño–Southern Oscillation and the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation. The dominance of these oscillations can make it difficult to identify long-term climate trends that may be attributable to climate change. However, the following trends have been observed:
Information on future climate change scenarios for New Zealand is contained in Climate Change Effects and Impacts Assessment.72 Guidance on future sea-level rise is provided in Coastal Hazards and Climate Change.73 These guidance manuals were updated in 2008 to reflect the findings of the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report.
As illustrated in figure 6.1, New Zealand temperatures are expected to be on average 1°C warmer by the period 2030–2049 (referred to as 2040) and 2°C warmer by the period 2080–2099 (referred to as 2090), relative to 1980–1999 (referred to as 1990). The projected average annual rainfall shows a pattern of increases in the west of up to 5 per cent by 2040 and 10 per cent by 2090, and decreases in the east and north exceeding 5 per cent in places by 2090. The newly projected changes in seasonal mean rainfall show a different and more marked seasonality than was evident in the projections used in the previous guidance document.
This figure shows projected changes to rainfall and avaerage temperatures across New Zealand. New Zealand temperatures are expected to be on average 1°C warmer by the period 2030–2049 and 2°C warmer by the period 2080–2099.
Other anticipated climate changes include:
The guidance provided for coastal hazards and sea-level rise uses a risk-based assessment and recommends planning for:
...a base value sea-level rise of 0.5 m by the 2090s (2090–2099) relative to the 1980–1999 average, along with an assessment of the potential consequences from a range of possible higher sea-level rises. At the very least, all assessments should consider the consequences of a mean sea-level rise of at least 0.8 m relative to the 1980–1999 average.
For planning for the period beyond 2100, an allowance for sea-level rise of 10 millimetres per year beyond 2100 is recommended.73
The New Zealand Government is currently considering providing further national direction on planning for sea-level rise.
To assist decision-makers, climate change scenario information in the guidance manuals is also provided at the regional council scale. The information is presented as the average change, and the lower and upper limits, from the climate model runs for the location. Climate change scenario information is being further downscaled to provide better information at a local level.
New Zealand has a devolved system of resource management, and addressing and minimising the impacts of climate change is largely the responsibility of local government.74 As a result, implementing climate change adaptation policy is an important focus for local authorities.
The Resource Management Act 1991 is the primary legislation that sets out how New Zealand manages its environment. To provide greater legal certainty for councils about their responsibility to consider the effects of climate change, the Act was amended in 2004 to require all persons exercising duties and functions under the Act to have particular regard to the effects of climate change. The Ministry for the Environment is in the process of developing further guidance and national direction on implementing the resource management legislation and planning for climate change. The principle focus of the policies is flood risk management and planning for future sea-level rise. Guidance has been developed to assist local government with carrying out its statutory functions.
Other key legislation related to managing the impacts of climate change includes the Local Government Act 2002, the Civil Defence and Emergency Management Act 2002 and the Building Act 2004. The Health Act 1956 includes a requirement that territorial authorities protect and promote public health, which can include emerging threats such as climate change.
Climate change adaptation is best achieved by integrating adaptation activities into existing processes, practices and policies at all levels of society. At the central government level this means departments incorporating climate change adaptation into their existing programmes and policies. The Ministry for the Environment leads the Interdepartmental Climate Change Adaptation group, which provides a forum for cross-government initiatives on climate change adaptation. The group allows government officials to share information between departments and helps ensure climate change adaptation policy is coordinated and consistent across government. There are currently 21 departments involved in the group, with varying levels of engagement.
New Zealand’s policy response also includes a focus on engaging with priority stakeholders on the importance of preparing and planning for the impacts of a changing climate.75 Another focus is on providing information and guidance on the effects considered most likely to have a significant impact at a regional, national or sectoral level, and the expected timing of such trends.
The New Zealand Government provides a range of information to help people understand how they could be affected by climate change and what they can do to adapt. In particular, the Ministry for the Environment has developed resources specifically aimed at local government, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has developed materials for the rural sector. These climate change impact and adaptation publications are described briefly below and can be accessed in full from: http://www.climatechange.govt.nz/physical-impacts-and-adaptation/ publications.html.
The Ministry for the Environment has produced guidance manuals to help people implement the legislation described above. The technical manuals contain a large amount of detailed information, so summary reports have also been developed that present the key information in an easy-to-understand format.
Guidance on planning for climate change and flood risk is being produced and will be available from 2010. This comprises two components: techniques for including climate change in flood planning, and tools for estimating the effect of climate change on flood flow. A summary document is being developed and is planned for release in early 2010.
In addition to the guidance manuals described above, the Ministry for the Environment has developed guidance aimed specifically at local government. These resources include a climate change guidance note for the Quality Planning website,80 a number of planning guidance documents71 and a series of two-page case studies.82
The Ministry for the Environment has begun work on the development of resources to help urban communities to adapt to the impacts of a changing climate. These resources will be targeted at specific urban audiences, including households, businesses, development professionals and local government.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has also developed a specific climate change programme for land-based sectors because of the importance of the agricultural, forestry and horticultural sectors to the economy. The Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Plan of Action (the Plan of Action)83 includes a specific adaptation work stream that is supported by research, technology transfer and communication programmes.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is working closely with land-based sectors, land manager interest groups, local government and Māori to develop resilient adaptation solutions. Guidance is being produced in the form of case studies, information sheets and land manager learning packages. A technology transfer programme is being developed with sectors to ensure research and other materials are available to land managers and can be easily applied on the ground.
The Plan of Action also funds research on the impacts of climate change on primary sectors, including the impacts of droughts, wind, and frost on areas such as pasture production, forestry and horticulture. This will form the basis for future guidance and developing tools that can assist land managers to adapt to climate change.
A series of three publications was produced by the Ministry for the Environment to provide information on the impacts of climate change to the general public. These publications are currently out of date and the Ministry is considering updating them in early 2010. A stylised climate change impacts map was also produced for a general audience.84 This map is intended to indicate the potential regional impacts of climate change in New Zealand.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry for the Environment are developing a web-based, decision-support tool (a “toolbox”) to help users understand how climate change could affect them and what they can do to adapt. The toolbox will contain a generic component, as well as targeted modules for local government and land managers. The toolbox will be available from the New Zealand Climate Change website.85
In addition to providing guidance on the climate change scenarios for New Zealand, the Ministry for the Environment has been working in various partnerships to facilitate and encourage adaptation activities. For the Ministry, priority partners include representatives from local government, along with planning, engineering, insurance, surveying and lifeline utility groups. The Ministry brings representatives from each sector together as a group to provide opportunities for the partners to work collectively to:
The Ministry for the Environment is considering how best to help local authorities in their flood risk management roles and responsibilities, and to provide further national direction on planning for future sea-level rise. In late 2008, work to scope a strategic framework on flood risk management and practical options for integration was commissioned, and it has now been completed. This work builds on the Flood Risk Management Review, which was completed by the Ministry in June 2007 following major flood events in New Zealand.
The Ministry is also investigating opportunities to reduce flood risk through integrated legislative, regulatory, policy and practical approaches. This work is being undertaken in collaboration with the Insurance Council, the Earthquake Commission and local government and central government policy departments.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is working to ensure land-based sectors are resilient to climate change. Current priorities are to raise awareness of climate change adaptation among land managers and to improve understanding of the impacts of climate change on production systems, and to develop tools for land managers to use to respond to climate risks. Key actions include:
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry also administers the On Farm Adverse Events Recovery Plan, which covers climate-related events and outlines where government assistance may be available. In addition, there is a network of rural support trusts that provide assistance to the rural community during adverse events such as drought and floods.
New Zealand’s biodiversity is unique, as it is an island nation with a large number of endemic native species. The Department of Conservation (DoC) is examining current and potential effects of climate changes on New Zealand’s terrestrial natural heritage and is developing guidance for prioritising responses. The Department has produced a report, Adapting to Climate Change: An Approach for Assessing and Managing Impacts on Native Terrestrial Biodiversity in New Zealand. This is currently in draft form and will be published and available online towards the end of 2009. The work represented by this report reinforces the approach being adopted by the Department of Conservation to integrate adaptation to climate change into the monitoring, review and planning systems currently under development for biodiversity management.
The Department has commissioned a review of climate change impacts on New Zealand’s biodiversity, which will update the report prepared for the Ministry for the Environment in 2001. It also commissioned a report from NIWA, called Climate Change and the New Zealand Marine Environment, which examines the possible effects of climate change on the marine environment and highlights some immediate actions which could be taken in response.87
New Zealand has a vast exclusive economic zone and a large fishing industry. The Ministry of Fisheries has undertaken several projects to better understand how climate change might affect fish stocks in New Zealand waters and the New Zealand fishing industry. The Ministry of Fisheries undertook projects looking at:
The Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (MCDEM) has integrated preparing for climate change into aspects of its work programmes, including the following:
The Ministry of Health is leading projects to better understand the impacts of climate change on human health and health infrastructure. New Zealand is part of a research project, with the Centre for Health Assets Australasia at the University of New South Wales, Australia, to investigate the risks posed by the condition of existing health buildings and their ability to ensure high-quality health care continues to be delivered during increasing incidents of extreme weather events.
The Ministry of Health has started work on a vision and strategy on climate change adaptation for the health sector. The Ministry has also developed a resource (with the Institute of Environmental Science and Research) that provides a framework for linking New Zealand-specific climate change scenarios to their potential impacts on water supplies and health.
The New Zealand Transport Agency has published a two-part research report entitled: “Climate Change Effects on the Land Transport Network”. The research identified and assessed the impacts of climate change on New Zealand’s land transport networks including road, rail, ports and coastal shipping. It also made recommendations about policy options and adaptation measures that could be adopted in response to these risks. The research findings are intended to supply land transport infrastructure providers and policy makers with the information needed to adapt the design, operation and maintenance of critical assets to the impacts of climate change. The research was conducted by MWH New Zealand Limited and the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. The reports are available on the New Zealand Transport Agency’s website.90
A reference group has been established by the Department of Labour to explore possible future scenarios resulting from climate change in terms of employment, skills and economic performance. For this task, scenarios for 2020 have been developed that take account of natural resource pressures, which include climate change, and energy and water issues.
The Ministry of Tourism has developed a Tourism Climate Change Plan in collaboration with industry leaders and key agencies. Climate change impacts and adaptation research are components of this plan.
The Ministry for the Environment has worked with the Ministry of Education to scope the development of climate change adaptation resources to support the school curriculum.
Climate change presents considerable challenges to Māori because they have a significant investment in primary sectors that are exposed to climate risk, including fisheries and forestry. Māori also place a high cultural value on land, including areas that could be affected by events such as flooding or sea-level rise due to climate change.
The Government held 14 hui in February/March 2007 on climate change.91 The Māori Reference Group and the Iwi Leadership Group were mandated at the hui by iwi leaders to engage with the Government on developing climate change policies.
The Māori Reference Group has been a core part of developing the Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change Plan of Action (the Plan of Action), an integrated approach to climate change for land-based sectors. The Climate Change Iwi Leadership Group nominated two representatives to the “Climate Change Peak Group”, which provides strategic advice and leadership on the Plan of Action. Māori representatives are also members of the technical working groups that support the Peak Group, including adaptation, research and technology transfer.
A range of Māori-specific projects have been commissioned by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, as a result. A series of case studies has also been completed, outlining adaptation activities to date.
In 2004 the Resource Management Act was amended to require councils to have regard to climate change in making decisions under the Act. This amendment has resulted in councils including rules in their regional and district plans that include climate change. Climate change is usually mentioned in the natural hazards, subdivision and coastal sections of plans.
Many regional councils have undertaken climate change impact assessments for their regions, including Gisborne,91 Taranaki,93 Tasman,94 Bay of Plenty95 and Canterbury.96 Taranaki Regional Council, through its proposed regional policy statement (2009),97 includes a specific section responding to the effects of climate change. In addition, two regions, Auckland98 and Wellington, are developing regional climate change energy and adaptation strategies. Nelson City Council has developed a Climate Change Local Action Plan,99 which includes adaptation.
Local government has developed a leaders’ position statement on climate change. The position statement provides a brief introductory context, a number of overarching statements in relation to local government’s position on climate change, and statements on the areas of adaptation and mitigation. The position statement also includes the high-level expectations that local government have of central government, particularly around responsibilities for leading on mitigation.
73 Coastal hazards and climate change: A guidance manual for local government in New Zealand. Ministry for the Environment 2008. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/climate/coastal-hazards-climate-change-guidance-manual/
75 The priority partners for the Ministry for the Environment are local government, engineers, surveyors, planners and lifeline utility groups. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry partners with representatives from the land-based sectors and Māori.
86 Māori are the indigenous people of New Zealand. An iwi is one of the larger collective Māori groupings and is sometimes described as a tribe.
91 A hui refers to a gathering or meeting. It can involve individuals, a hapū (a grouping of related families) or several hapū, an entire iwi (a larger Māori grouping sometimes called a tribe), or several iwi.