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Vulnerable: The Quantum of Local Government Infrastructure Exposed to Sea Level Rise


By Tom Simonson, Principal Regulatory Advisor, LGNZ.

Roughly two-thirds (65 per cent) of New Zealanders live within five kilometres of the sea, so sea level rise is a major issue for us.  Councils recognise that communities’ resilience to climate change depends in large part on what we are doing to adapt to sea level rise. 

To create greater clarity on this subject, on 31 January LGNZ released its report Vulnerable: The quantum of local government infrastructure exposed to sea level rise.   Until now, councils have not had accurate information on the type, amount and replacement value of their infrastructure exposed to sea level rise, and therefore if and where planning should be prioritised.

Initiated in mid-2017 and carried out throughout 2018, LGNZ conducted a survey of 62 territorial authorities to determine the quantity and value of local government infrastructure at risk to the effects of sea level rise. 

The report shows as much as $14 billion of local government infrastructure is at risk from sea level rise.  More specifically, the report shows that $2.7 billion of roading, three waters, and building infrastructure is at risk from as little as a 0.5 metre rise in sea levels.  The value of at risk infrastructure ramped up sharply at each increment of sea level rise, with the data showing:

  • $5.1 billion is at risk at 1m,
  • $7.8 is at risk at 1.5m, and
  • $14.1 billion is at risk at 3m.

The report makes several key recommendations, including:

  • Central and local government partner to establish a National Climate Change Adaptation Fund to ensure that costs of adaptation are shared equally, and do not over impact lower socioeconomic households; and
  • Establish a Local Government Risk Agency to help councils understand and factor climate change risks into their planning, decision-making and procurement frameworks.

Read the full report here.