Adaptation Planning | Communities
Climate change threatens community cohesion. As climate disasters worsen, unique suburbs and communities may not be able to hold together. Early adaptation can help us maintain our identity and increase our resilience.
Local and regional councils are at the coal face of climate change, as they bear much of the responsibility for adapting to and mitigating its impacts.
Councils have to incorporate climate change into existing frameworks, plans, projects and decisions, and need to make sure that all community members have a say in decisions that affect them and their way of life.
There is still a long way to go and a lot of work to do. To be effective, climate adaptation requires a diverse range of research, policy and action.
Local infrastructure such as drinking, storm and wastewater networks, local roads, flood mitigation schemes and coastal defence systems are the responsibility of local government.
The wide range of impacts and implications from climate change on local infrastructure require deliberate management responses from all levels of local government. Decisions should be based on evidence (including sound data and local knowledge) and current national guidance.
To do so, councils need to work together, as well as with central government, business, communities, lifeline services, Māori, researchers and other experts.
The resources in this section will help you understand the impacts of climate change on some of our locally managed infrastructure systems.
Climate change is a “threat multiplier” with the potential to make existing inequalities in New Zealand society worse.
The health impacts of climate change are not well-researched in Aotearoa, but we know they include the direct consequences of extreme events, as well as secondary effects such as “livelihood stresses”. Back-to-back droughts, for example, have clear physical and mental health impacts in rural communities.
Some of our research is trying to understand how climate will impact the health of Māori and their whānau, in order to make sure that future health policy can respond equitably.
Other research examines the ethical implications of our existing law and policy frameworks. Our current framework is not delivering well for poor or vulnerable communities.
Over the coming years, communities, councils, hapū and iwi will have to make very difficult decisions, and will face increasing physical, cultural, financial and spiritual challenges. To adapt successfully, these communities need to be in charge of their own futures.
Council engagement with communities requires more than “business as usual” processes. This is because climate change is a slow-onset crisis, because we need to make decisions under uncertainty, and because there’s a high risk of not serving their most vulnerable.
Democratic and participatory decision making, the foundations of much iwi-led engagement, are key to developing strong adaptation pathways.
The resources in this section offer frameworks for both council- and iwi-led community engagement.
We can reduce our flood risk. Planning for flood risk must be adaptive and flexible, so that short-term solutions don’t prevent longer term solutions from being implemented in the future.
Short-term solutions may include hard structures such as seawalls, or more ecologically-sensitive options such as restoring sand dunes.
In the long term, we may need to move away from places that keep flooding. “Managed retreat” is the planned relocation of communities away from dangerous areas. It aims to work with nature rather than against it. Done well, it helps at-risk communities maintain cohesion and identity, before retreat becomes urgent and haphazard.
Managed retreat is an incredibly difficult issue, ethically and legally, and for ancestral lands, tangata whenua must have authority over the decisions being made. Relationships with traditional territories must be maintained.
The resources in this section describe different methods of understanding and reducing flood-risk.