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OECD report highlights NZ’s lack of sea rise framework

A report released today by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) provides strong support for the recommendations given by LGNZ’s recent report Vulnerable, which identified as much as $14 billion of local government infrastructure is exposed to sea level rise.

The new report finds that in most OECD countries, local governments implement measures to directly manage coastal risks, but that the enabling framework is set at a national level, and that central government should be responsible for providing the tools and incentives so that communities can plan and adapt to climate change.

However, in New Zealand the lack of an enabling framework is creating uncertainty that threatens private property, infrastructure and the environment.

“It’s pleasing that this in-depth, international report uses the Clifton to Tangoio Coastal Hazard Strategy in the Hawke’s Bay as a case study of good local government leadership on adapting to climate change,” says LGNZ President Dave Cull.

“However, it highlights that for all that good work at a local level, there is a huge deficit of national support for our coastal communities. Around the world, it’s recognised that national plans are needed. What we’ve been given in New Zealand is a guidance document that provides local government with limited direction, and as a result there’s great uncertainty for our coastal communities.

“Although we’re pleased with what we’ve achieved in Hawke’s Bay, we’re ultimately operating in a grey area because there hasn’t been any national alignment on responsibilities, resourcing or policy,” says Coastal Hazard Joint Committee Chair Peter Beaven.

“As the report points out, ‘The answers have not yet been developed in Hawke’s Bay or anywhere else, and a serious conversation about our respective roles is long overdue.”

In January, LGNZ released a report showing as much as $14 billion of local government infrastructure is at risk from sea level rise, calling for the government to urgently develop policies to help minimise the impact of climate change.

“Local councils have for many years led the policy debate around climate change adaptation in New Zealand. We are literally on the front line, and have been engaging with residents, iwi, and businesses who are exposed to rising sea levels, but the threat is too big for us to fight alone,” continues Cull.

“As a country, we cannot continue to respond to climate change related events on a piecemeal basis. We need to put a robust policy framework in place to ensure we minimise the disruption and harm to communities, and we only have a relatively narrow timeframe in which to do it before the scenarios in our sea level rise report become a reality.”

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