Some of the effects of climate change are now "unavoidable", and the country needs to prepare for the possibility that communities will be displaced by rising sea levels, the Government says.
On Wednesday, Climate Change Minister James Shaw released the final version of the Government's broad-ranging National Adaptation Plan to deal with climate change's impacts over the next six years.
It outlines the tandem roles central and local government, Māori and te ao Māori perspectives, the private sector, researchers and individuals can play.
“The National Adaptation Plan means that as well as working to reduce our climate pollution through the Emissions Reduction Plan, we will also be prepared for the unavoidable changes we know are coming,” Shaw said.
The document is the first of its kind in New Zealand. It brings together more than 120 actions - some of which were already underway - that form the blueprint to protect "lives, livelihoods, homes, businesses and infrastructure".
It warns that action needed to be taken sooner rather than later, otherwise the impacts of climate change would disproportionately affect Māori, people with disabilities, low-income families and rural communities.
It comes after months of public consultation on a draft version of the plan.
The final plan's actions remain largely similar to its draft. However, the Government has brought forward its overall timeframe to pass legislation to support managed retreat from 2022-2025 to 2022-2024.
That legislation would "address the complex technical, legal and financial issues associated with managed retreat".
The process involves relocating assets and sites of cultural significance within a planned period of time once other options - such as avoiding building near coastal areas, holding back the ocean with walls or raising structures - were considered.
Also included in the plan is a call for councils to "avoid locking in inappropriate land use" or "closing off adaptation pathways" before the Government completes its Resource Management Act reforms.
It coincides with "significant pressure" on councils to enable further development to address a lack of housing.
To better inform people looking to buy homes, the plan outlines changes to legal requirements for recording natural hazard information, such as potential erosion or subsidence, on Land Information Memorandum reports.
Progress on actions included in the adaptation plan will be reported annually to "enable accountability".
Shaw repeated earlier sentiments expressed by the Prime Minister that the Government was unwilling to "bear every risk and cost of climate change" in the report. He said asset owners, insurance companies, banks and the local government sector would also have to stump up.
“It will always be much more cost-effective to invest early in climate resilience than to live with the costs of inaction," he said.
“Severe weather events that had previously seemed unthinkable, even only a few years ago, are now happening at a pace and intensity we have never experienced before. And when they happen, everything from the roads we rely on, to our drains and water supplies, to getting the kids to school can be severely disrupted."
Conservationist and Forest and Bird CEO Nicola Toki told Breakfast the adaptation plan "gives New Zealanders the opportunity to use the benefits of nature to give us a bit of resilience".
She said many Kiwis were now seeing the effects of climate change, such as in recent extreme weather events, and that adaptation meant dealing with the fact that people's lives were already being disrupted.
Data released in May projected sea levels were rising faster than previously expected in some parts of the country, including Auckland and Wellington. Climate change, warming temperatures and land subsidence were contributing factors.
The plan follows the country's first national climate change risk assessment, which was published in 2020.
That assessment identified that the most significant climate change risks to New Zealand included impacts on buildings, deteriorating social cohesion, exacerbated inequities, high economic costs, and poor long-term planning.
Top Image: Recent flooding in NZ. Source: Breakfast
The Government has released its $2.9 billion plan to get Aotearoa to zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Scientists had designed the online tool to show sea level rise projections by location and year.
The budget lays out the total amount of emissions New Zealand must cut over the next 14 years.