Revealed: What Kiwis think about climate change

A new poll shows the majority of New Zealanders acknowledge the need to prepare for the impact of climate change - but few believe enough will be done.

Haumoana is a town well-acquainted with the impacts of climate change; the coastal Hawke's Bay settlement was pummelled by waves last year, and the region was hit with violent storms more recently.

"We've seen a great deal of change in the last five years in our coastal communities," says Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.

On Sunday, those changes were on show again - with the Captain Cook monument at Cooks Beach in the Coromandel falling into the sea as the high tide ate away the coastline.

Insurance company IAG surveyed Kiwis on their views on climate change to encourage conversation on an issue they say could hit small coastal communities hardest.

"That's an example of what the future might look like - but what we're really keen to do is ensure we don't get into that situation," says Bryce Davies from IAG.

"How do we help those communities protect themselves or find a different place to live?"

Of the 1000 New Zealanders polled, 88 percent think we will see more severe floods, storms and inundation as a result of climate change.

Eighty-four percent agree humanity is able to reduce climate change, but just 10 pecent think we will take appropriate action.

Seventy-nine percent agree we need to start taking action now, and 78 percent think we need to act even if other countries don't.

Seventy-four percent believe climate change will result in people needing to move from where they live now.

Dunedin mayor Dave Cull says the poll results are concerning for both local and central government.

"What it's telling us is our communities are not confident that we can work together to address the issues that are confronting us."

Much of New Zealand's urban infrastructure is located in coastal areas like Tamaki Dr, which was closed on Sunday due to a combination of big swells and the king tide.

With the rate of sea level rise expected to increase, experts say we need to adapt - and that could mean not building roads next to the sea.

IAG says although reducing emissions is important, for a small country like New Zealand adaptation is crucial.

The poll also found that when climate change was compared to issues like crime, immigration or housing, it wasn't a priority for people.

"It's not an issue that's immediate or front of mind for them - they're worried about other things, which is fair enough," says Mr Davies.

"The problem we have is by the time this becomes apparent it's too late."

But for people living in places like Haumoana, climate change will start to climb the priority list very quickly.