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EDS launches recommendations for Climate Adaptation Act

11 July 2024

EDS today launched the final report of Phase 1 of its Climate Adaptation Project. Titled Design Recommendations for a Climate Adaptation Act the report sets out a package of statutory and institutional reforms to enable the country to successfully adapt to climate risks.

“The need for new legislation has taken on increased urgency given recent climate-related disasters across the country,” said report author and EDS Policy Director Raewyn Peart.

“It is particularly pleasing that government has adopted a cross-party approach to developing policy in this area through the Finance and Expenditure Select Committee’s public inquiry into climate adaptation.

“Our three earlier working papers drew on a series of national and international case studies as well as in-depth interviews with adaptation practitioners on the ground. We also specifically explored adaptation approaches for Māori.

“They highlighted a number of significant gaps in the legal and policy settings for climate adaptation and managed retreat. These are becoming increasingly concerning as climate change starts to bite.

“What we have done in this report is provide concrete recommendations on how to fill these gaps. These include:

  • A clear purpose for climate adaptation
  • Mandatory regional climate change risk assessments
  • A National Policy Statement for Natural Hazard Decision-making (with strengthened provisions)
  • A National Environment Standard that requires that subdivision and land use consents are not granted for new hazard-sensitive development where there is high natural hazard risk
  • Amending existing use rights (with compensation) so residential use can be excluded from areas undergoing managed retreat
  • Requiring councils to collect information on the number, type and total value of buildings located in areas subject to high natural hazard risk
  • A statutory framework for local adaptation planning setting out the purpose of plans, when they are to be initiated, their content and the process to prepare them
  • Giving local adaptation plans legal weight in other decision-making processes (including generating an ‘Adaptation Overlay’ in district plans)
  • A National Adaptation Fund to help finance the preparation and implementation of local adaptation plans as well as the acquisition of property for managed retreat
  • No government funding for adaptation works (such as seawalls and stopbanks) unless a compliant local adaptation plan identifies the works as part of the preferred adaptation pathway
  • Tailored property acquisition powers for managed retreat
  • A managed retreat compensation scheme enshrined in law
  • Incentivising risk reduction actions through offering insurance premium discounts
  • A National Adaptation Agency to oversee managed retreat
  • Relocation programmes which set out details of how managed retreat will be undertaken in specific areas
  • Climate Adaptation Reserves for vacated land.

“We are hoping our recommendations will inform government consideration of what to include in a new Climate Adaptation Act. We will be presenting our findings next week to the public inquiry into climate adaptation.

“EDS acknowledges funding support for the project from ASB Bank, Beca, IAG New Zealand, Wellington City Council and Auckland Council.

“We are currently scoping a second phase of the EDS Climate Adaptation Project and are actively seeking partners and funding support for our work.

“Adaptation in the face of growing climate hazards is one of the greatest future challenges facing this country. It is important we get the policy settings right,” concluded Ms Peart.

View the final report here.