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Funding split for climate change adaptation in question after release of working group report

Thursday 24th May 2018

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The government is considering how to fund New Zealand's adaptation to climate change, following a working group's report which recommends 21 key actions across central and local government and the private sector.

Climate Change Minister James Shaw today released the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group’s (CCATWG) report. At the release, Shaw said some of the recommendations - including creating a national climate change risk assessment and adaptation action plan, with central government reinforcing the importance of adaptation - would be covered by upcoming public consultation on the Zero Carbon Bill.

The report also stresses the need to determine how this adaptation will be funded, and Shaw said the mechanism would "take some work." Local Government New Zealand president Dave Cull was also present for the report's launch, and Shaw said he would work with Minister of Local Government Nanaia Mahuta on the recommendations. 

"This is a nationwide challenge, and we have to engage with it as a country, and support each other through that," Shaw said. "It's not evenly distributed across the country - particular regions, industries and groups of workers, it does affect everyone but not at the same speed and not to the same extent." 

Shaw said the problem would require an integrated response, involving central government, local body authorities, and the insurance and banking industries.

The insurance sector could act by refusing to provide cover to houses at risk of the effects of climate change, which would mean people couldn't get a mortgage for risky properties. 

Shaw said insurance companies have been involved in developing the reports, and he has engaged with the sector.

"My sense is they're moving extremely cautiously, but also the insurance industry has some of the best predictive modelling in the world, so they're more aware than just about anybody. It's probably a good thing to get pressure to move on this, because it is a challenge we need to respond to."

"One of the risks we're going to have to deal with is if there's a big pot of money sitting there to deal with the adaptation challenge, some people may continue to make poor choices thinking that there will be a bailout at some point. Those are the complexities we're going to have to engage with."

Cull said LGNZ had been asking central government for legislative change to let it act on climate change adaptation. Last year, the Kāpiti Coast District Council was taken to court by a group of ratepayers after adding 2,800 properties to its assessed coastal hazard zones, meaning a warning was added to those properties' Land Information Memorandums (Lims).

"At the moment, local government may take into account the effects of climate change when putting certain things in place. For some time, we've been asking the government to make that may a 'must', so we're required to. That would enable councils to act more courageously when they don't have the risk and cost of litigation when they do the right thing," Cull said. 

"If we act now, and put lines on Lims, current landowners say 'you've prejudiced the value of my property and you're liable for that'. If we know there are risks coming and we don't put those lines on the Lims, a future owner of the property can come back in 10 years time and say 'you knew, you didn't act and you're liable'."

Judy Lawrence, co-chair of the working group, said local government had been hampered in dealing with the issue, and community engagement would be important going forward.

"At the moment we have a few tools, but there are other tools that can be used," Lawrence said. "The risk assessment will be discussed with the public of New Zealand. Let's move on to the future, learn from the past, and we will be able to avoid some of the issues and problems we've had."


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