Monday, March 4, 2024

Minister calls for inquiry into community-led climate funding

Climate Change Minister, James Shaw, has asked Parliament’s Environment Committee to conduct an inquiry into community-led retreat and adaptation funding.

The Minister said an inquiry would explore how community-led retreat, including communities choosing to relocate away from areas of high risk, could become part of New Zealand’s adaptation system, and how the costs could be met.

“Severe weather events such as Cyclone Gabrielle cause immense damage. Climate change is likely to bring more frequent and more severe events in the future. Decisions we take now, about how to prepare and adapt, will have a lasting legacy,” said Mr Shaw.

“Community-led retreat is a carefully planned process, that can mean anything from relocating homes, to cultural sites, to playgrounds, out of harm’s way, before a severe event, like a flood, happens. I have asked the Environment Committee to hold an inquiry so we can hear a broad a range of views on how to develop an enduring system.”

Minster Shaw has asked the Committee to open its inquiry before the election to allow everyone to have a say on the way forward, but the process would conclude in the next Parliamentary term.

“I am proposing a Special Committee be formed in the next term of Parliament, made up of members from all political parties, to give the issue the attention it deserves, and to build cross-party consensus. That could include members of the Māori Affairs Committee, to build on their inquiry into Māori climate adaptation,” he said.

Mr Shaw said the inquiry’s findings would inform development of the Climate Change Adaptation Bill – legislation to support a system of community-led retreat – in 2024.

While the inquiry terms of reference would be for the Committee to decide, Minster Shaw has suggested the terms of reference could include:

  • The current approach to community-led retreat and adaptation funding, its strengths, challenges, risks and costs.
  • Lessons learned from severe weather events and natural disasters in Aotearoa New Zealand for community-led retreat and funding climate adaptation. 
  • Effective mechanisms for community-led decision making.
  • Potential institutional arrangements, including roles and responsibilities of central and local government agencies, iwi and hapū.
  • Māori participation, Crown obligations, and how to best give effect to the principles of te Tiriti o Waitangi, and integrate mātauranga Māori and te ao Māori across the adaptation system.   
  • Alignment and integration with existing legislation and regulatory framework, including the reformed resource management system and any changes needed.
  • Regulatory powers and potential economic or other incentives needed to support adaptation actions (both before and after extreme events).   
  • Funding sources, access to them and principles and criteria for cost sharing.
  • Targets or indicators for assessing progress to more resilient communities and infrastructure.

In anticipation of an inquiry, the Ministry for the Environment has today published a supporting ‘Community-led retreat and adaptation funding – issues and options’ paper.

It lays out the challenges in the current system and presents options for the future, exploring who could make adaptation decisions, how they could decide, how the community could be involved, and how the costs could be shared.

It also considers how a Te Tiriti-based system could work for iwi, hapū and Māori communities, especially for decisions affecting whenua and whānau.

Later today, the Ministry will also publish a technical report by an Expert Working Group chaired by Sir Terence Arnold KC and including experts in Te Ao Māori.

Further information, including how to submit, will be made available on the Parliament website in due course.

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