• Sea level rises pose risk

The Insurance Council of New Zealand has welcomed Local Government New Zealand’s (LGNZ’s) report into sea-level rises around the country, saying that the billions of dollars of local government assets identified in the report as at risk from sea-level rise doesn’t even tell half the story.

The report found more than $4 billion of three waters infrastructure, roughly $1b of roading infrastructure and $1.2b of buildings and facilities would be exposed if sea levels were to rise 1.5 metres. The total value of all infrastructure types exposed is estimated at approximately $8b across the country.

In Auckland alone, $620 million of infrastructure is at risk if sea levels rise just half a metre.

LGNZ said the data it had gathered confirmed the real challenge for communities was to accept that multi-generational investment for sustainable future outcomes was needed now.

It said local governments needed to lead a national conversation about the levels of service currently provided and what could be anticipated in future.

“Local government must actively engage with a wide range of stakeholders to inform decisions about how best to prepare for and address rising sea levels.”

It wanted central and local government to co-ordinate to establish a National Climate Change Adaptation Fund to improve stakeholder participating in responding to climate change and to ensure equitable outcomes. It also wanted a Local Government Risk Agency to be established to help assist and guide consistent and expedited planning, decision-making and procurement, build local government capability and capacity to identify, quantify and understand risk.

Its final proposal was that local government co-ordinate with owners and users of exposed infrastructure to create a National Master Plan, prioritising options and opportunities for responding to sea level rises.

"This report should have everyone sitting up and listening," said Tim Grafton, ICNZ chief executive.

"It has identified that over $5b of local government assets are at risk from a one metre sea-level rise, but we believe the full cost of exposure to central government and private sector property will be in the tens of billions of dollars.

"LGNZ has done everyone a service by putting the issue of adaptation to climate change fairly and squarely on the agenda for discussion by all," he said.

"This is not just an issue for local government; central government has a key role to play too and ultimately carries the economic, social and political risk if adapting to sea-level rise is not well managed. Every dollar invested to reduce and adapt to risk now will save many more dollars in future post-disaster losses and help avoid social dislocation."

March 2019

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