The effects of climate change are now considered a foreseeable risk. Insurance companies in the United States have signalled that planning authorities should carefully consider potential liabilities when making development decisions.
Similarly, in New Zealand the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Jan Wright commented (on 27 November 2014) that: “if councils allow development in the knowledge that maybe they shouldn’t, then there may also be liability falling on them.”
This is problematic in relation to the extent of known information. Many aspects of climate change can be understood only in terms of trends, probabilities and likely ranges of the expected impacts of climate change in future. The level of information necessary for precise quantification will emerge only through time.
The August 2015 SOLGM report ‘Climate change – Local Government can make a difference’ recommends a collaborative approach between Government and local government to provide nationally consistent information on the likely effects of climate change.
This was backed up by the Insurance Council of New Zealand in 2014, when it made 15 recommendations for protecting New Zealand from natural hazards, including the following three which are of particular relevance to climate change:
The SOLGM report states that online information systems will be most useful and more trusted if there is a consistent approach taken to this work, on a national basis. This would help councils to reduce costs, avoid reinventing wheels, and support reliability and comprehensiveness in the information underpinning their policies and strategies and provided to communities.
Opposition from property owners
Nationally consistent approaches to development and provision of information about the effects of climate change would also help address the battles many councils face when attempting to set regulatory controls on use of private property based on future risks from natural hazards.
To resolve this, the President of Local Government New Zealand, Lawrence Yule, has called for greater direction from central government. “Without any central government directive it is quite difficult for councils to do what effectively might be the right thing for the future, but is seen as being too aggressive for the people of the present.”
Information source: The information in this article was sourced from the following report ‘Climate change – Local Government can make a difference’ commissioned by SOLGM, and published August 2015.
The full report is available here: