Marama Davidson says 'billionaires' buying up seaside properties should feel the pinch from climate plan more than ordinary bach owners

Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson says the Government's latest proposal to tackle climate change will upset many in coastal areas but ordinary bach owners shouldn't have to bear the burden.

The draft National Adaptation Plan was released on Wednesday and outlines actions the Government will take over the next six years to respond to the priority risks identified in the 2020 National Climate Change Risk Assessment.

If the changes in the proposal are introduced, properties will stop being built on the coast, and property owners on the seaside will have higher insurance premiums, to accommodate for rising sea levels. 

Green Party Co-Leader Marama Davidson told AM on Thursday she understands many bach owners will be furious, but they are not the ones at risk. 

"I'm not thinking about how we continue to benefit the billionaires who are buying up seaside and coastal properties around the world and here in New Zealand right this minute, who aren't as worried as an ordinary bach owner," she told AM Early host Bernadine Oliver-Kerby.

"I'm really clear as a Green co-leader that it can't continue to fall on the people who are already feeling the pinch of these adverse effects. We know with climate change if we don't do anything, if we don't do any planning it will impact those very people more so."

Davidson told AM her view is that there needs to be an equity approach for who takes the burden in the latest plan. 

"My view is we have to take an equity approach to who has reaped the benefits of the current economic system and can afford to pay more than those people struggling with their ordinary coastal community living," Davidson said.        

"We know this is causing anxiety for ordinary folk just doing their best to try to survive and it's about having a plan so everyone in our community has some resilience, strength and strategy for all of us to live our lives as best we can."

Part of the plan will see property owners on the seaside have higher insurance premiums and Davidson said that is to make sure the burden doesn't fall on people already struggling to get by. 

"There is a really important principle here, we don't want the burden of these adverse and building weather effects to fall on people who are already struggling," she told AM. 

"We also know that people with the very most, people with uber wealth can afford to pay a lot more than what other people can. We don't want that burden of hardship to fall on people who are just trying to get by."

Green Party Co-Leader Marama Davidson.
Green Party Co-Leader Marama Davidson. Photo credit: AM

Climate Change Minister James Shaw said events like the recent floods in Tairawhiti and fires in the Waituna wetlands in Southland demonstrate the case for urgent action on climate change.

"Of course, the best thing we can do to stop these extreme weather events from getting worse is cutting the pollution we put into the atmosphere in the first place. Next month's Emissions Reduction Plan will set out how we plan to do that."

The plan outlined by Shaw on Wednesday is just a proposal and the Government is asking for feedback, with big questions around insurance, property transfer and who pays for it all. 

Shaw warned if we don't address climate change now, it will inevitably lead to higher taxes because the money to respond to the challenges it creates has to come from somewhere. 

"I need to emphasise that we are already paying for the cost and this is about reducing future liability," he said. 

"The cost is getting carried and those costs will increase and if we do nothing and we are just dealing with the effects of climate change via emergency response, then that is going to equate to an increase in taxes because that money has got to come from somewhere."

Funding and financing is one of the important areas to deal with, Shaw said, but the Government is still gathering feedback on this. He said the costs right now are primarily falling on the Government in the form of disaster response management.

You can have your say by submitting to Citizen Space, between April 28 and June 3. 

Climate Change Minister and Green Party Co-Leader James Shaw.
Climate Change Minister and Green Party Co-Leader James Shaw. Photo credit: Newshub

The effects of climate change are starting to become clear. 

In the past 100 years, the climate has warmed by 1.1C and the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that if Earth warms by 2C, hundreds of thousands of species could go extinct.

New Zealand is experiencing more hot days and fewer cold days, according to the Ministry for the Environment, with 2016 the warmest year on record.  

Sea-level rise is continuing at a rate of 2.4 millimetres each year, which poses a severe adaptation challenge for New Zealand, with most of our major urban centres and population located on the coast or on floodplains of major rivers.

If sea levels rise by half a metre, 36,000 buildings, 350 square kilometres of land and an extra 48,900 people would be exposed to flooding during extreme events - that's about the population of Nelson.

Over the last 10 years, climate change related floods have cost the New Zealand economy at least $120 million for privately insured damages. Economic losses from droughts have cost a further $720 million.

Watch the full interview with Marama Davidson above.