New Zealand could see 70 percent increase in 'extreme' fire danger due to climate change - report

Some of New Zealand's coldest regions could see their fire risk more than double over the next twenty years thanks to the "significant" effects of climate change.

The Ministry for the Environment with Stats New Zealand has released its annual climate summary for 2020 - and the news isn't good.

Temperature analysis from 30 sites around New Zealand showed every single one experienced an increase in temperature over winter - and it could have a profound impact on future generations.

By 2040, days with extreme fire danger are predicted to increase by an average of 70 percent. The largest increases are expected for colder areas so far unaccustomed to fire.

Wellington would see its fire danger double, and coastal Otago would triple.

"If the temperature continues to warm it's likely that the cooler areas where some species can live will be reduced," reads a summary of the report.

"Large birds like kiwi, whio and North Island kokako are particularly at risk because of their limited ability to move into new areas." 

It's not just the future looking grim - climate change is happening right now.

Over 2020 annual temperature averages increased at 28 of the 30 sites, while 13 sites saw a decrease in frosts and 13 had an increase in drought frequency. 

Extreme weather events have become more common - heat waves and dry spells all increased across the board. 

"In early 2020, Auckland experienced its longest dry spell of 47 days," reads the report.

Between 1960 and 2019 the average length of Auckland's dry spell was 10 days. 

Ministry for the Environment chief executive Vicky Robertson says the report spells trouble ahead.

"This report points to profound changes to New Zealand's climate, and greater impacts on our wellbeing in the future, unless there is both local and global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," she said in a statement on Thursday

"Climate change is here to stay, but the window to create the best possible future for our young people and their children's children is closing."