Climate Minister James Shaw asks Parliament committee to study climate change adaptation, relocation

Climate change minister James Shaw.
Climate change minister James Shaw. Photo credit: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone.


Climate Change Minister James Shaw has tasked a select committee with investigating how communities can relocate out of harm's way.

The inquiry would allow a broad range of views to be shared and help develop an "enduring" system with cross-party consensus, he said.

In a statement on Tuesday morning, Shaw requested Parliament's Environment Select Committee look into community-led retreat and adaptation funding - beginning before the election in October, it would not finish until afterwards.

"Community-led retreat is a carefully planned process, that can mean anything from relocating homes, to cultural sites, to playgrounds, out of harm's way, before a severe event, like a flood, happens," Shaw said.

"An inquiry would explore how community-led retreat, including communities choosing to relocate away from areas of high risk, could become part of our adaptation system, and how the costs could be met."

Anticipating the inquiry, the Ministry for the Environment published an "issues and options" paper laying out the challenges in the current system and options for the future.

Shaw said the terms of reference could include:

  • The current approach to community-led retreat and adaptation funding, its strengths, challenges, risks and costs
  • Lessons from severe weather and natural disasters
  • Effective mechanisms for community-led decision making
  • Institutional arrangements, including roles and responsibilities of government agencies, iwi and hapū
  • Māori participation, Crown obligations, giving effect to the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi, and integrating mātauranga Māori
  • The legislation and regulations, including the resource management system and any changes needed
  • Regulatory powers and incentives to support adaptation before and after extreme weather
  • Funding sources, access to them and principles and criteria for cost sharing
  • Targets or indicators for assessing progress to more resilient communities and infrastructure

Shaw said the ministry would also publish a technical report by an expert working group later in the day, with further information also made available on the Parliament website.

National's climate spokesperson Simon Watts said the party would take part in good faith, but had its own ideas about what it would do in government.

"We need to have certainty and consistency, and the lack of having a national framework in order to deal with climate adaptation means that the government are making decisions here and there, and I think that inconsistency isn't good for our long-term."

New Zealand should already have a framework in place to deal with it, he said.

"We think that the conversation around climate adaptation is one that needs to be done across parties, we're just frustrated that it's taken six years to get to a point where we need to form a committee to have this conversation ... the floods in Auckland were six months ago now and we still don't have a framework to deal with one of the single biggest issues that we have."

The framework would need to bring local and central government together with the banks and insurers, he said.

"We know there's going to be more weather events, we know that we're going to need to do investment in infrastructure to deal with climate adaptation and impacts and we need a framework to do that."