Vulnerable: the quantum of local government infrastructure exposed to sea level rise

Tom Simonson, Grace Hall, Tonkin+Taylor Limited, Local Government New Zealand
Local Government New Zealand
Publication date:

Purpose of this study

This project has two intended outputs. The first is to research the current quantity and value of infrastructure exposed to sea level rise at four increments; 0.5, 1.0, 1.5 and 3.0 metres, and to quantify replacement value. The scope of this research project primarily includes roads, three waters infrastructure and buildings. Data was also collected on other types of infrastructure, including greenspace, jetties and airports.

The second and more important output of this research is to provide responses to rising sea levels. This study intentionally avoids specific and local costs, and targets discussion at a regional and national level in order to highlight trends and general areas of high and low priority. It raises questions about how to improve procurement, appropriately share management of risk, and communicate with stakeholders about priorities.

Impacts resulting from sea level rise will be far reaching, and will demand that central and local government, communities, iwi, businesses and property owners coordinate investments to adapt and build community resilience. For too long in the local government setting, dialogue has focused on response to an opaque impact; unquantified replacement values and costs have led to indecision in planning and investment, and vague objectives. Until this time, there has been no cohesive body of data to ground a discussion and develop reasonable outcomes with a national and regional focus.

Action on climate change demands, and will continue to require, proactive collaboration between stakeholders. Without continued research and dialogue to establish positions for directing local government resources, our communities will be ill prepared for the inevitable impacts.

Four main recommendations:

  • Local government leads a national conversation about the level of local government services currently provided and what can be maintained in the short (1 – 10 years), medium (10 – 30 years) and long term (30+ years) as sea levels rise.
  • Central and local government partner to establish a National Climate Change Adaptation Fund to ensure that costs of adaptation are shared equally, and do not over impact lower socioeconomic households.
  • Establish a Local Government Risk Agency to help councils understand and factor climate change risks into their planning, decision-making and procurement frameworks.
  • Local government team up with owners and users of exposed infrastructure to create a National Master Plan, setting out options, priorities and opportunities for responding to sea level rise.

Sea level rise report

See also

Local Government New Zealand

Last updated: 2019-01-31