NZ regions planning for climate change

I opened the latest Environment Waikato news update to discover that a Regional Policy Statement (RPS) is due, ten years after the last one. As I thumbed through the publication a heading leapt out at me: “Our climate is changing, so we must too.” Underneath came this statement:

“Even if all greenhouse gas emissions were stopped now, we will still be affected by greenhouse gas emissions already in the atmosphere, and will need to adapt to changes for generations to come.”


Following paragraphs mentioned some of the specifics for our region.  It was comprehensive. Agriculture and forestry, our major commercial land uses, could be directly affected by climate change and climate policy. We can expect rising sea levels, more extreme weather, more droughts in the east, more intense rain and increased winds in the west, warmer, drier summers, milder winters and shifting seasons, increased risks from natural hazards such as river and coastal flooding, coastal erosion and severe weather.

Examples were then given of the kind of responses Environment Waikato will focus on. Flood management, the use and development of natural resources, planning, building regulations, infrastructure design and location. All sensible and appropriate.

I was pleasantly surprised by the prominence being given to climate change in the policy statement. It is listed as the second of six key issues facing the region, the first of which is the pressure being put on natural resources.  The third issue is energy sources, and here again reference to climate change and the need to cut carbon emissions figures strongly. Even in the fourth issue, land use, the question of carbon footprint gets a look in.

Encouraged, I went looking for other regions’ ten-year plans. Not with a great deal of success.  However I found Greater Wellington’s which was approved last year. It too identifies climate change as a key issue (page 29). It was more discursive than Waikato’s, and introduces mitigation more prominently. What it seeks:

“A resilient community that, as far as possible, is reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the effects of global warming, but is also adapting well to any changes caused by climate change.”

Among the likely changes it points to are increasing drought in the Wairarapa, increases in storm intensity across the region, increased fire danger and the serious implications of sea level rise for coastal areas.

In relation to mitigation measures it finds space to respond to the argument that because New Zealand is so small Wellington shouldn’t worry about reducing its emissions but simply concentrate on adapting to whatever results from the rest of the developed world’s activities:

“The countering argument is that if, to achieve a liveable future, we wish to persuade the rest of the developed world to mitigate the effects of global warming, we only acquire the moral right to do so by doing our bit.”

The counter argument seems to have won out, for the document goes on to set out the response of the regional body to the climate change issue:

“Greater Wellington is currently working with the city and district councils in the region and around New Zealand, and is leading the region’s planning for dealing with climate change. Local authorities have agreed to work collaboratively on developing goals and a shared plan for the region to reduce the region’s greenhouse gas emissions. We will also take the opportunity to develop strategies to support our communities to be resilient and adapt to the effects of climate change.”

It details steps which are under way or planned. Prominent  amongst them is the identification of potential renewable energy options for the region, such as marine and solar, and the intention to make Greater Wellington-owned land available for private developers to construct wind farms at Puketiro in the Akatarawa Forest and Stoney Creek in the Wairarapa.

Whether these two regional councils are representative of the long-term thinking of all the regions is unclear. Auckland’s planning is on hold pending the new governance set-up there. Canterbury, the other major centre of population, surprisingly doesn’t seem to address climate change specifically in its draft statement or identify it as a major issue. However, the major attention given to the matter in the Waikato and Wellington statements indicates that it is becoming integrated into their thinking and that they are being guided by the predictions of the science.  The Waikato draft notes that New Zealand’s response in terms of actions to reduce climate change is primarily a central government rather than a local government role, but nevertheless expresses some interest in emissions reduction within its bailiwick, particularly in relation to renewable energy generation and more climate-friendly transport. Wellington is quite bullish on the contributions it can make to mitigation as well as adaptation.

It is clearly worth keeping an eye on local government while agonising over the continuing evasiveness of central government.  Engagement with adaptation issues locally must surely impress people with the reality of climate change and the need to mitigate further damage. There’s an irony that the Minister of Local Government, Rodney Hide, should be a vocal climate change denier who laments what he describes as the massive costs inherent in climate change policy. He even goes so far as to say that the policy is designed to upend society and stifle industrial processes and progress. Fortunately there are limits to his authority.

29 thoughts on “NZ regions planning for climate change”

  1. Rodney Hide – who laments what he describes as the massive costs inherent in climate change policy.

    Notice how people like Hide compare the cost of action to an imaginary scenario i.e. that global warming won’t impose any costs. Pay a little now or massively more later. So much for their grounding in economics.

    Good to know that at least a couple of regional bodies are adopting a rational approach Bryan. Shame about the rest.

    While on this topic- I actually dobbed in a local developer a couple of years back, when we had a huge flood. A couple of the newly developed sections (not yet built on) were under at least a metre of water. I informed one of the local inspectors, whose eyes lit up. Although we haven’t had a flood of that magnitude again yet, I’m sure the sections would have been built on, and some poor bugger lumbered with the consequences.

    1. ” to an imaginary scenario”

      An imaginary scenario? You mean like the sea level rising 2-6 meters?
      You guys really need to understand that computer models are not evidence….

      1. “computer models are not evidence….”

        You are clearly scientifically illiterate.

        (* rolls eyes *)

        Models are all we have, we do not have a second planet.

        (* Yawns *)

        1. Nice to see you admit that there is no observational evidence about hot spots actually existing. Otherwise you would give me a link/reference wouldnt you?

          The irony of your “scientifically illiterate” comment is stunning.
          This comment below amused me..

          “If IPCC Climate scientists were Physicists: The IPCC has found that the total net anthropogenic forcing is 1.6 W.m-2 with an error range of 0.6 to 2.4 W.m-2. If the IPCC’s same errors for Radiative Forcing Components were applied to the universal gravitational constant, IPCC climate scientists would tell us that the UGC is 6.67 × 10-11 N·m2/kg2 with a range of 2.5-10 N·m2/kg2. They would then assure us there is 90% certainty that acceleration due to gravity on Earth at sea level is in the range 3.7 to 14.7 m.s-2. IPCC climate scientists would tell us apples may be as light as a feather or as heavy as a brick. They would tell us apples fall down, but they’d be unable to tell us how fast, and occasionally they may actually fall upwards.
          If IPCC Climate Scientists were engineers: If IPCC climate scientists were engineers they wouldn’t use rulers to measure distance, they’d use the wind. IPCC climate models predict a hot-spot over the tropics but thermometers attached to weather balloons show no sign of it, the hotspot is missing. So with no warming in the thermometers IPCC climate modelers looked elsewhere and claimed to have found it in wind shear. Throw away your calculators, they would tell the engineers the answer is blowing in the wind. So how would IPCC climate scientists go at engineering? Would you trust an IPCC climate scientist to build your building?”

          Oh well, back to your what ifs and maybes.
          Meanwhile to others the science about feedback(s) is not settled and research continues.

          -Sits back and waits for the inevitable name calling.

          1. Cut and pasted from ABC’s Unleashed here.

            Why not try writing your own stuff?

            As you will know, David, the tropical troposphere hot spot is not a signature of GHG-forced warming. It would occur with warming from any source. However stratospheric cooling is a sign that GHGs are warming the troposphere — and guess what? That’s been observed for a long time…

          2. David. What a load of Bullshit! I’d be ashamed to copy and paste such tripe and think that it held anything in the way of an argument. And guess what! Dr James Hansen IS A PHYSICIST!
            “He obtained a B.A. in Physics and Mathematics with highest distinction in 1963, an M.S. in Astronomy in 1965 and a Ph.D. in Physics, in 1967, ” Wiki.
            Furthermore in the “argument” above we find this statement – which is NOT contested.
            “The IPCC has found that the total net anthropogenic forcing is 1.6 W.m-2 with an error range of 0.6 to 2.4 W.m-2.”
            So what you are saying is that there IS anthropogenic forcing of from 1 Wm-2 to 4 Wm-2.
            Now that may not sound like much – but that is over the whole planet, and it adds up eventually to a hell of a lot! And that imbalance is going on ALL THE TIME – a 1 – 4 W bulb every square meter of the earth burning day and night. And if we don’t do something about it it will get worse.
            As for the reference to the UGC – well that is just nonsense. You might as well compare oranges with bananas. It is a false comparison, and the argument is rended invalid there and then.

            1. Feel free; I did*!

              *From a mate of mine. Then again, I more-or-less wrote his honours thesis, so we’re probably even!…

          3. IPCC does not have its own scientists, David. There is a large group of scientists (over 600, I believe) who review the published, mostly peer-reviewed, literature and provide summaries/conclusions to the IPCC – without pay!! It’s a huge process. Likewise, IPCC does not run its own climate models.
            And besides, climate scientists come from many disciplines – including physics.
            Pardon me, but your ignorance is showing.

  2. The Waikato Region, Environment Waikato’s purview, is interesting in that it contains the Lower Waikato district which regularly sees heavy flooding and in which there’s been a lot of flood protection work done, the Hauraki Plains, which is a very fertile dairy area but which is at sea level and in some areas below, and the Coromandel Peninsula, which has seen an increase in flash floods (on the western side), urban development (with much more planned) and which will be under pressure from sea level rise.

    Rodney Hide may not accept climate change because it goes against his ideology, but they’re a bit more pragmatic at EW.

  3. two comments – firstly – notice how Rodney Hide did not seek clear proof that making Auckland into a super city would achieve the objectives and justifications for doing so. he diddn’t even know what it would cost, and still dosen’t.

    secondly – watch out regional councils if NAct get a second term. They will be lucky to survive. They are being down-trodden and eliminated already.

    The ideologues are having a field day tilting the balances in their own interests. Narrow minded and short-term that they are!

  4. Its seems that lower levels of government are getting this right, right around the world. I think it is because they are able to take on board the relatively straightforward science, without the politics, and see the problem for what it is – dealing with a contaminant. They are taking all the appropriate strategies, reducing use while managing the effects that cant be fixed by reduction. In fact, readers may remember that in the 1990s a new thermal power station in Taranaki got consent for its CO2 emissions on the basis that it had to demonstrate increased energy efficiency in the electricity sector, or else plant trees as an offset. Not a brilliant approach (as we now know), but at least an early start!

    Its a shame that we have not left it with regional councils to take measures to control emissions. They are, for example, doing great things with air quality. Its bizarre that these councils have power to insist on certified efficient wood burners for home heating, but cant take the same sorts of measures for a much more dangerous threat.

  5. It strikes me that of all the ways there are to reduce our “dirty” energy use and the associated CO2 production that there is little or rarely mention of reduction . This must be in my books the easiest and first effort to apply while in the meantime we look for the application of renewable sources.
    Perhaps I am wrong and reduction is not as easy as I think as we all have in-built innertia and don’t like to do with one car as we have done with two for as long as we can remember. Still doing with less is cheapest option and effective in the short run.
    The climate-change sceptics are affraid that non-sceptics are over reacting and that reduces our competitive position in the world.
    But what is so wrong with over-reacting, doing more that what is minimally necessary. I would rather over-react than under-react in this very serious situation of which there are so many unknowns.

    1. The Greater Wellington statement does talk about reduction:

      “Greater Wellington has already developed targets and
      a plan for reducing its own corporate greenhouse gas
      emissions and will be working to implement this plan.
      For example, three quarters of our emissions are from
      energy used in water treatment and distribution.

      “We will also:
      • Implement the Regional Land Transport
      Strategy that has:
      – A target to hold transport emissions to 2001
      levels by 2016, an effective cut of approximately
      25% once population growth is taken
      into account
      – Measures to reduce transport emissions, such
      as more public transport, school and business
      travel plan programmes and a web-based
      ride-share programme”

  6. I too was very pleasantly surprised and delighted to read EW’s News update. My first, since moving from the “super city”. I note that there is follow up Bryan, Submissions early next year etc. We shall have to be pro-active on this and give our voice to the continuing appropriateness of the policy.

    1. Yes, it’ll be a pleasure to offer support for the statement. And perhaps important – I gather there’s a bit of climate change denial lurking in one or two of the councillors.

      1. “I gather there’s a bit of climate change denial lurking in one or two of the councillors.” With Dairying as the main agricultural activity of the region I’m sure there are.

  7. Something the rural Regional Councils should know about concerning farmers from Rod Oram here:

    Some 200 farmers and others delegates from around the world participated in a day-long farming conference. They, too, were instantly polled on a range of issues:

    Is human activity contributing to climate change? Yes, 95%; no, 4%; don’t know, 1%

    Is dairy farming contributing to global climate change? Yes, 75%, no, 17%; don’t know, 8%

    Is dairy farming part of the solution to climate change? Yes, 85%; no, 15%.

    1. Thanks for drawing attention to Oram’s article. As well as being of interest to rural Regional Councils it would be nice to think this survey might herald a change in Federated Farmers of NZ’s response to climate change.

    1. ACT is the only party which has climate denial as part of its platform, but it’s an open secret that there are at least a few members of the National caucus who have pronounced their scepticism from time to time. But I don’t think there’s been a systematic survey. Perhaps we should do one…

  8. There are 37 references to climate change in Canterbury’s draft RPS which is currently out for consultation. It is something that has been threaded through the RPS resource chapters – in particular Landuse and Infrastructure, Freshwater, Natural Hazards and Ecosystems and Indigenous Biodiversity.

    I would welcome feedback as to how this could be improved.

  9. Flush them out and exterminate them like rats.

    Please..! Hey, warfarin is pollutant, too. Now that medicine has a platelet power plant in aspirin coverage.

    If, however, you were to say name and shame well I’d guess how the audience ought be capable and willing to recognise such miscreants to its own advantage.

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