The first national climate change risk assessment for Aotearoa NZ has been released. It identifies 43 priority risks with the following 10 most significant risks that require urgent action:

  • Natural Environment: Risks to coastal ecosystems, including the intertidal zone, estuaries, dunes, coastal lakes and wetlands, due to ongoing sea-level rise and extreme weather events.
  • Natural Environment: Risks to indigenous ecosystems and species from the enhanced spread, survival and establishment of invasive species due to climate change.
  • Human: Risks to social cohesion and community wellbeing from displacement of individuals, families and communities due to climate change impacts.
  • Human: Risks of exacerbating existing inequities and creating new and additional inequities due to differential distribution of climate change impacts.
  • Economy: Risks to governments from economic costs associated with lost productivity, disaster relief expenditure and unfunded contingent liabilities due to extreme events and ongoing, gradual changes.
  • Economy: Risks to the financial system from instability due to extreme weather events and ongoing, gradual changes.
  • Built Environment: Risk to potable water supplies (availability and quality) due to changes in rainfall, temperature, drought, extreme weather events and ongoing sea-level rise.
  • Built Environment: Risks to buildings due to extreme weather events, drought, increased fire weather and ongoing sea-level rise.
  • Governance: Risk of maladaptation across all domains due to practices, processes and tools that do not account for uncertainty and change over long timeframes.
  • Governance: Risk that climate change impacts across all domains will be exacerbated because current institutional arrangements are not fit for adaptation. Institutional arrangements include legislative and decision-making frameworks, coordination within and across levels of government, and funding mechanisms.

The government is to respond to the risks identified with a National Adaptation Plan by August 2022.

Implications for Infill

There is high agreement and medium evidence that infrastructure and buildings are all sensitive and exposed to the impacts of climate change. Subdivision and land development practices will need to adapt. As society becomes more aware of climate change impacts on the built environment so too will market demands. Houses without a secure supply of water or that are at risk of damage from extreme weather events will ultimately decline in value, no matter how good the views.

Infill development is an opportunity to help adapt to the impacts of climate change. Onsite water storage can be used to improve water security for both new and existing houses; existing natural hazards can be better understood and managed; distributed energy generation can be connected to the existing network; and demand for public transport, walkways and cycleways is increased. These are all property features that will become attractive as the impacts of climate change begin to become apparent.

These positive effects can be used to support resource consent applications because they have particular regard to the effects of climate change – Section 7(i) of the Resource Management Act 1991.

A glimpse of what adaptation may look like in regulatory practice can be found in DOC’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan. They are proposing to add a ‘climate vulnerability qualifier’ to the New Zealand Threat Classification System (NZCTS) as well as Dynamic Adaptive Pathways Planning (DAPP). These approaches are an opportunity to disrupt traditional land development practices with innovation.