NZ’s Climate Policies and Local Government Actions

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New Zealand enacted the 2019 Zero Carbon Amendment Act to achieve its net-zero emissions goal by 2050. The Zero Carbon Act amends the Climate Change Response Act 2002.

The changes do four things: set a GHG emissions reductions target by 2050, establish an emissions budget, require the government to develop and implement policies for climate adaptation and mitigation, and establish the Climate Change Commission, an independent body that will provide advice to the government on climate change mitigation and adaptation, and monitor progress towards the new 2050 target emissions budgets and the implementation of a National Adaptation Plan. 

Click the link to learn more about New Zealand’s Climate Change Program.

Local Council’s Role in Mitigation and Adapting to Climate Change

In New Zealand, local councils are required to consider climate change impacts on communities under the Resource Management Act (RMA) 1991 and incorporate climate change into its existing frameworks, plans, projects, and standard decision-making procedures like flood management, water resources, planning, building regulations, and transport (Climate change adaptation, 2021).

In February 2021, the government plans to repeal the RMA Act and replace it with three new pieces of legislation:

  • the Natural and Built Environment Act (NBA) as the primary replacement of the RMA,
  • Strategic Planning Act (SPA), and
  • Climate Adaptation Act (CAA).

According to David Parker, Minister for the Environment, the RMA processes take too long, cost too much, and haven’t adequately protected the environment like the fresh water and addressed the many new challenges like climate change (Overview of the resource, 2021).

To assist local governments in understanding and planning for climate change impacts, the Ministry for the Environment released climate projections for New Zealand in June 2016 and updated guidance on coastal hazards and climate change in December 2017.

You can access these publications on the MFE website.

In September 2021, the MFE has published a framework to help local governments undertake a local climate change risk assessment. The document will describe the framework and method used in the first-ever National Climate Risk Assessment (NCCRA) in New Zealand.

The framework combines scientific, technical, and expert information with the Māori worldview and local knowledge and expertise. Data from it will contribute to the development of the National Adaptation Plan.  

A four-page “Local government position statement on climate change” of the Local Government NZ (LGNZ) clarifies the local government’s role and mandate in responding to climate change.

It also highlights the importance of collaboration with the central government and the community to respond effectively through climate mitigation and adaptation.

It recognises the local councils are at the forefront of climate change effects. Responding to it through climate adaptation and mitigation creates enormous challenges and opportunities in four areas – environmental, social, cultural, and economic prosperity.

What local-led action on climate change look like.

The LGNZ position paper shows how local governments will respond to climate change in four ways:

  • Local governments will collaborate among various local government units (regional, unitary, district, and city councils) to align skills and capabilities to achieve climate change goals.
  • It will integrate climate change into urban, land-use planning, waste management, energy use, and transport infrastructure.
  • Use a hazard approach to managing risks, and
  • Factor in climate change projections into freshwater investments and water management practices.

Click the link to read New Zealand’s Local government position statement on climate change.

Watch out for CAPs series of blog posts on what NZ Local Governments are doing about climate change

Climate Adaptation Platform (CAP) will publish a series of blog posts on how climate change impacts local councils in New Zealand and how they are responding to it.

Each week, we will feature a local council in New Zealand to present what climate change threats or risks they are experiencing, including future risks and the steps or plans they are taking to address them.

Source Citation:

About New Zealand’s climate change programme. (2021 June 17). Ministry for the Environment. Retrieved from

Climate change adaptation and local government (2021, September 30). MFE. Retrieved from

Overview of the resource management reforms. (2021 June 29). MFE. Retrieved from

Local government position statement on climate change. LGNZ. Retrieved from

Ministry for the Environment. 2019. Arotakenga Huringa Āhuarangi: A Framework for the National Climate Change Risk Assessment for Aotearoa New Zealand. Wellington: Ministry for the Environment. Retrieved from

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