Climate change and the Far North

Ahipara beach

“Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has called climate change “my generation's nuclear-free moment”. She stated that while there would be trade-off for all, "we owe it to ourselves, our children and future generations" to mitigate the effects of climate change. 

As a result of climate change the Far North District Council and our communities may be exposed to large and long-term financial and investment needs, political and public pressure, reputational concerns, and also a need for specialist staff and contractors. Our Council believes that effectively managing or adapting to the effects of climate change is a strategic priority for our District. Responding to climate change is the right thing to do. In establishing a strategic roadmap to address this issue, Council will need to strike a balance between aspects such as risk, community well-being, funding and investment and affordability in order to understand where we are at as organisation and what our objectives should be."

Shaun Clarke, Chief Executive - Far North District Council

Climate change poses an unprecedented threat to New Zealand’s environment. NIWA has recorded that over the past 25 years sea levels have increased around 3mm per year and are projected to rise by more than one metre by 2120. Rising temperatures, rising sea levels, and a new pattern of more extreme weather are challenges which both local and central government must respond to. 

The Far North District Council has identified climate change as the number one risk facing our district and is developing programmes to address both climate change adaption and carbon footprint reduction. In 2017 we signed the Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration recognising the urgent need to address climate change.   

What is Council doing?

We have supported the Government’s Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill. Changes to climate change law have the potential to impact on the affordability of communities.  As a result we are seeking clarification regarding how climate change responses will be regulated and funded. We are particularly keen to understand the financial burden for ratepayers and residents. Costs that may increase include insurance premiums, road user charges and rates that fund vital infrastructure and community facilities.

We also supported Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) remits in July 2019 asking the Government to include local government representation at all levels of climate change policy development and establish an independent expert group to develop a new policy framework for adapting to climate change.

The impacts of climate change are being considered in our work on strategies and plans, including Far North 2100 (the District Strategy), the Long Term Plan 2021-31 and our District Plan. The Draft District Plan includes a stronger framework for dealing with climate change and natural hazards, and identifies that climate change effects need to be included in all natural hazard risk assessments using the latest national guidance.

Council departments are also currently creating a framework to ensure that climate change is considered in all our decision-making and we are developing a road map to plan the best course of action for Council to respond to climate change.

Climate change planning for Northland

We recognise that there is power in working together, so we are engaged with other Northland councils to ensure there is a consistent and effective approach to climate change planning in the region. We are a member of the Tai Tokerau Climate Change Adaptation Working Group which is developing a climate strategy and work programme for Northland. Climate change will also be a key focus of our Community Development Team when developing community plans in the District.