Northland climate change adaptation efforts gain importance
Whangarei Girls' High School taking part in New Zealand's first student strike for climate change in Whangarei in 2019. Future international sea level rise predictions are increasing urgency for Northland's first regional climate change strategy. The new Te Taitokerau climate adaptation strategy is expected to be place early next year. Northland Regional Council climate change resilience co-ordinator Matt de Boer said new international figures from the global Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed a sea level rise of up to 5m by 2150 could not be ruled out under a high carbon emissions scenario. These and other IPCC figures made Northland work to deal with rising sea levels even more important. In line with Environment Ministry expectations, increases of 0.5m to 1.5m were being factored into Northland councils' climate adaptation work, de Boer said. Northland has 3200km of coastline along which many communities live, work and play. The draft strategy is shaping up as councils across the region jointly work on how their communities' adaptation to sea level rise plays out. It is being developed by Northland Regional Council, Far North, Kaipara and Whangarei district councils, along with tangata whenua and local communities. The strategy and accompanying implementation plan will set out a 10-year work programme that identifies how and where councils will work with communities to develop climate change adaptation plans - including key localities, appropriate methods for adaptation engagement, associated timeframes and required resourcing. It aims to help co-ordinate, organise and align collective council activities to support communities' climate change adaptation. New IPCC forecasting was presented to the recent second meeting of Northland's new governance-level joint climate change adaptation committee. The eight-member group has a councillor from each of Northland's four councils and an iwi/hapu representative from each of the council's jurisdictions. It held its first meeting in April. Climate change impacts were already happening, said Amy Macdonald, joint climate change adaptation committee chair and NRC councillor. "The evidence is clear that climate change is the largest environmental challenge of our time," Macdonald said. "We can see it's not just a future process it is happening now. "Our communities increasingly see climate change reflected in the environment around them and they have growing concern about the future for their children and grandchildren." She said working with district councils, tangata whenua and affected communities was crucial to ensuring Northland was collectively better prepared for climate change. Delaraine Armstrong, joint committee deputy chair and Whangarei District Council tangata whenua representative, said more input from tangata whenua was needed in the draft strategy's development. The strategy will next go to the region's four councils for further development work, including with their representative tangata whenua groups, before their formal endorsements. Final plan sign-off is expected at the joint governance committee's November meeting before formal adoption in March. Kaipara Mayor and joint climate change adaptation committee member Dr Jason Smith said the strategy helped Northland prepare. "It's putting Northland ahead of the curve with something about which there is great urgency at present," Smith said. "We want this to be everybody's document because nga tangata katoa o Tai Tokerau, everybody, is involved in this. Macdonald said the strategy was guided by three key questions; what's happening, what can we do about it and what are the next steps? "The strategy provides an overview of climate change risks to Northland with a focus on local government responsibilities, with the aim of identifying priority risks requiring adaptation planning." The five-month-old governance group is a key new development in regional climate change adaptation work. It adds to an already-in-place cross-council regional staff-level working group for the North. Northland councils' first shared staff climate change working group Climate Adaptation Te Taitokerau was set up in 2018 to work on a collaborative approach to climate change adaptation. A new economic impact report details the effects of repeated closures.