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Councils, business partners in climate change adaptation

LGNZ President Dave Cull told delegates at the Climate Change and Business Conference this morning that while businesses have led the charge to quantify the financial impact of climate change on their balance sheets, they need to expand their risk awareness to whether they will be able to operate at all. That’s according to LGNZ-commissioned research, whose preliminary findings suggest billions of dollars of roading, water and building infrastructure are at risk from as little as half a metre rise in sea level.

As a result, local councils and businesses will need to work closely together to develop plans to efficiently manage climate related costs and measures to maintain the viability of regional economies.

“The impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels, increased flooding, landslips or drought, may, in the future, mean your business cannot physically operate. This isn’t scaremongering, but a reminder of the harsh reality that everyone in New Zealand will have to face at some point in the future,” said Mr Cull.

He cited the examples of the east coast of the North Island where in some areas rising sea levels are threatening hundreds of homes and businesses. The Edgecumbe flood of 2017 saw 100 businesses directly affected, and required recovery assistance in excess of $700,000.

But while the science suggests that the frequency of these events is going to increase in future, Mr Cull noted that collaborative planning with communities and businesses means the negative impacts can be managed - and is already occurring right now.

In the Hawkes’ Bay area, Napier City Council, Hastings District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council have developed the Clifton to Tangoio Coastal Hazard Strategy, which has seen community and business representatives identify the locations most at risk and use this to shape how their districts will develop in future.

Wellington City is undertaking a similar process with the coastal community of Makara Beach in Wellington, as well as Dunedin City Council, who have supported the development of South Dunedin’s own locally-driven Community Response Plan.

“Climate change might be a global issue, but it’s at local level where the impacts of climate change are most tangibly felt, and are being felt now, which is why we’re getting alongside our businesses and communities.”

LGNZ is set to release the full report later this year that identifies billions of dollars of local government owned assets and infrastructure exposed to sea level rise, which will have impacts on business, who utilise key roads and reticulated water supplies.

Councils also passed a remit asking LGNZ call on the Government to establish an adaptation fund to improve local level and community participation in responding to climate change. That fund, which LGNZ are developing options on, would help with the costs of adapting to climate change, unlock opportunities for collaboration across the country to adapt, and proactively address the impacts of climate change.

“Councils and businesses need to work together to ensure we’re on the front foot for climate change - the costs of doing nothing will be far greater than the costs of action ahead of time.

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