The growing cost pressures councils face due to climate change are real, but adaption costs won't be addressed by the Government's Zero Carbon Bill

The growing cost pressures councils face due to climate change are real, but adaption costs won't be addressed by the Government's Zero Carbon Bill

National MP Todd Muller says New Zealanders need to debate how we're going to pay for the massive costs of climate change adaption, but questions whether the Government can afford to fund it.

The Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill passed its first reading in Parliament in May. The bill received cross party support, including from the opposition National Party. It has set the target of net zero greenhouse gases by 2050 (excluding biogenic methane which has a separate target) with a series of emissions budgets set over the next few years.

“I think it is unlikely global emissions will reduce fast enough to avoid changes to New Zealand’s sea level, coastal erosion and weather patterns and we need to have the conversation now about how we will adapt,” Muller says.

“In fact when you look at the scale of the assumed costs of mitigation to reach the 2050 targets in the zero carbon bill there is a real question as to whether NZ’s balance sheet can deal with both mitigation and adaptation.”

Under the Bill the Government will be required to develop policies for climate change mitigation and adaptation and to establish an independent Climate Change Commission to provide independent advice to the Government and carry out risk assessment work. But who is going to pay for the massive costs involved with adaption isn’t outlined in the ambitious bill and remains the elephant in the room.

“I think local government is fair in asking for a shared approach to the costs associated with climate adaptation. I support adaptation being part of the Zero Carbon Bill, particularly the focus on ensuring we have a clear picture of where the risks sit in a NZ context,” Muller says.

But he admits there’s a lot of work that needs to be done before discussing who will pick up the tab.

“Before the conversation immediately runs to funding, I think the better question is ensuring all local government have comprehensive view of their risk areas, exposed infrastructure and how they are considering responding to these challenges in their long term plans.”

Rising cost to local government

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) released a report in January titled, Vulnerable: The quantum of local government infrastructure exposed to sea level rise. It looked at the cost to councils from rising sea levels and said up to $14 billion of local government infrastructure was at risk. The report called on central government to urgently develop policies to help minimise the impact of climate change on New Zealand communities.

It also recommended the establishment of a National Climate Change Adaptation Fund to deal with the costs of rising sea levels and a Local Government Risk Agency to help councils understand and factor in the risk of climate change into their planning and decision-making. But since the report was released the Government has pressed ahead with its Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Bill, but there’s no mention of a National Climate Change Adaption Fund in the legislation. 

“It’s a big issue for New Zealand because so much of our living space and infrastructure is located near our coastlines," Muller says. "So it’s quite right for LGNZ to say this is coming down the tracks at us.”

The costs associated with dealing with climate change continue to be an issue that hasn’t yet been addressed and the ongoing work being done by Auckland Council and other local authorities around the country only serves to highlight the scale of the problem.

Auckland Council last week signed off its own submission on the Zero Carbon Bill and it also raised concerns about the massive costs involved in adapting to climate change.

“We believe it is critical that significant funding support be provided from a national level for local implementation of resilience measures. Putting the majority of the funding onus on local government will make it difficult for adaptation measures to succeed.”

In a debate last week on the Auckland Council’s submission councillor Richard Hills highlighted the growing costs of climate change that the council is now dealing with on a daily basis.

He says budgets these days include items on coastal erosion, slips, flooding and repairing council assets which are directly related to the effects of climate change.

Productivity Commission

The Productivity Commission released its draft report this month on the funding and financing of local government. It highlighted the growing pressures councils were facing due to climate change. The report states:

“The most challenging new and growing pressure on local government funding arises from climate change, including the threat of sea-level rise and extreme weather events. The effects of climate change are already evident in events such as major floods and sea damage to property. Although the main pressures still lie in the future, they will grow inexorably, affecting some locations more than others and with significant uncertainties about just when, where and how the effects will materialise.

“The most direct threat is climate-induced damage to local government infrastructure such as roads and bridges, and stormwater, wastewater and flood-protection assets.”

The report’s recommendations included establishing a new national Climate Change Adaptation Fund with a “statutory mandate to fully fund, partly fund or co-fund various specified costs related to adapting to climate change”.

Minister for Climate Change James Shaw was approached for comment on this story, but was unavailable. 

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And that's not all what happens when the car fleet has no more petrol fuel and turns to electric. We use 3.0 billion litres of petrol per year at a $1 per litre of Tax thats yip $3.0billion out of the Govt coffers they wont have. So there goes Road user charges for electric cars. to recoup some funding for roads.

You don't think Govt would stop getting the tax did you ?
RUC is already set for Electric vehicles once we get to 2.5% of nz fleet size or 2022 whichever comes first.
Year date could be wrong, it got pushed out again recently due to not enough people to charge just yet.

“I think local government is fair in asking for a shared approach to the costs associated with climate adaptation".

What is 'fair'?

This will be kicked down the's an election policy nightmare.

Its just an excuse to add another TAX plain and simple.
So far the NO NEW TAXES Labour has added 15.9% petrol tax with its future flow on to food and greater affect to poorer people.
Proposed carbon zero 14% increase in prices for electricity!
If you think we have capacity in our electricity system for a fleet of electric cars THINK AGAIN. We witnessed the explosion in price with GAS outages and low wind gen.

Perhaps ratepayers should be exempted from having to pay to bail out those who believe climate change is not real. If it's not real there's nothing for them to worry about.

So long as deniers aren't expected to bail out anyone else, it seems fair. In such a scenario it would be interesting to see who the real believers are.

Let's get it inked.

If there's no such thing as climate change deniers will have nothing to bail out. I'm sure everyone living in low-lying waterfront properties in Auckland will be putting their hands up in willingness to stand on their own two feet.

Deniers should pay double, after all it is their delaying tactics that see us almost in a too late situation now.

Maybe we should all follow Al Gores 2012 he bought a huge mansion right on the water's edge.....hmmmmhhh, me thinks someone has been telling porkies.

He's a boomer. Might be counting on it not affecting him in his lifetime, so who cares.

The only thing for certain is that the more reports they do, the higher the costs are going to be.

Adaption is always intensely local.

  • Kaikoura District Council does not need to do Thing One: they are 1500mm higher than they were just a few years ago, thanks to a Benevolent Gaia.
  • Kapiti Coast is near enough opposite - a West Coast, always-eroding shoreline (little to do with CC - lot to do with longshore sediment movements which erode Here and accrete There).
  • Dunedin City has a mixture of low-lying suburbs and Big Hills, as do Welly and Awkland. Adaptation will thus vary by suburb and even by street...
  • But don't expect much rationality for a while - the 'emergency' meme has Councils and their minions firmly in its grip, as it's a grand opportunity for Mo' Munny and Mo' Power - the gleam in their eyes bodes ill for us Deep-Pocketed Citoyen.
  • And don't forget the Four Wellbeings , on which Councils can spend every cent and more of OPM without demur....

"...need to debate how we're going to pay for the massive costs of climate change adaption..." There is the unstated implication that after we have done this we will continue with life as usual. But this cannot happen. Councils need to consider that protecting some land will just be too costly. Many of those who own high value coastal properties that are under threat, will need to accept that to preserve the value in those properties they will need to shoulder some pretty high costs. Councils need to have the courage to say to those, usually wealthy, people that they are on their own and that rate payers will not be acting as a group to protect the value in their properties.

Some low lying land, and infrastructure is going to have to be abandoned as the cost of protecting it will be more than replacing it somewhere else. Courageous decisions to be made indeed.

"Councils need to have the courage to say to those, usually wealthy, people that they are on their own and that rate payers will not be acting as a group to protect the value in their properties."

Councils have a statutory duty to protect their citoyen as to basic livability provision: 3 waters, roads, drains, bridges and (via CCO's, asociated public utilities and contractors) power, gas and other distribution networks. So your assertion that YOYO is exactly counter to that. What we are actually debating is twofold:

  1. The use of model-based projections for the next century, to determine the viability of living in locations and in houses that (Building Act) have max 50-year economic lives. The rush to scare-monger e.g. net SLR and to start talk of 'Managed Retreat' has no basis in current physical measurement. It would be more sensible to pepper the vulnerable spots with survey marks, do a measurement cycle each decade, set trigger points to say what happens if actual measures exceed an agreed trigger, and then (and only then) Act - however defined.
  2. Where the cost of mitigation, adaptation etc falls. Drainage and river protection has long since had specific rates to cover maintenance and extension for certain areas, so the mechanism to build levees, raise sections, and carry on the century-old local works that may be needed, is not only there but is widely used, well understood, and accepted by those so benefiting. There's no suggestion, anywhere, that citoyen in Remmers need compulsorily to make Mission Bay flood-proof as to private property. Unless, as was done in Christchurch, the fronting road is deemed a Strategic Assets, and carefully flood-proofed.....out of General rates.....

River Protection works, touched on above, are the analogous situation. Rivers flood, and every now and again, the flood is a monster. But there is little talk of 'Managed Retreat) in, say, Whanganui: slap-bang next to an occasionally floody river. There is, instead, the usual incremental adaptation. So there's the way forward. Incrementalism and benefitters-pay. Been that way for a century or more. Next problem?

I get your point, but under the assault of climate change some areas will not be able to be protected irrespective of the statutory requirements because the costs will simply be too high. We see evidence of that happening in a number of places where storms have breached coastal barriers and councils have declined resource consents to repair those barriers or just plainly told the residents they are on their own. In Whanganui the flood prone area has been much under debate where many advocate a managed retreat because the cost to protect, and even the ability to protect at all is questionable. Insurance companies will play a part here as many places will effectively become uninsurable, because the certainty of damage will be just too high.

"the costs will simply be too high" - that's the exact point. Costs need to be for actual protection works, designed to adapt to a known and measurable situation, estimated by real engineers and quantity surveyors, not PDOOMA by elected or unelected scare-mongerers. And then those well-estimatred costs can be put before the affected community (Consultation....) and that community - be it large or small, a fraction of a street or an entire suburb - will decide what they will tolerate.

I believe that's called Democracy in action.

Now, that's the exact scenario you have advanced for e.g. West Coast seawalls. But it comes down to what the locals affected, properly and soberly informed, have had to say. Not by central poo-bahs, fizzing at the bung with the Scare-du-jour, and eager (as always) to Not Let a 'Crisis' go to waste.....

I so agree with all of that comment, waymad . I actually got trigger points and targeted rates written into a KCDC Coastal Strategy back in 2006 when I was living in the District - the council adopted these ideas/recommendations in that Coastal Strategy document;

Seen here, page 56 (targeted rates) and page 59 (trigger points)

So, then when they got around to their proposed district plan changes (by this stage I'd left the district), I helped a resident put in a submission to get those intentions included in the plan as methods - even referencing in the submission the actual pages in the strategy document that the submission points referred to. The officer's response to the hearing panel regarding these submission points, was that they (the planners) could easily include these methods in the plan if there was "the political will". Yes, that is the exact quote from the planner.

I assume the panel checked in with the elected members - and there must not have been any "political will" - because these methods never made it into the DP.

Sometimes council's are their own worst enemies.

Just introduce a voluntary gullibilty tax. Greenpeace has a blueprint to work from. Mankind has been adapting to sea level change, erosion and floods since the Aborigines walked to Tasmania.

Back then you just walked further inland, nothing gained, nothing lost, it's a bit of a different story today

They're out in force I see.

Actualy, we weren't paying our way - we were dodging our real costs. This isn't about paying more, its about paying what we were dodging.

From the POV of generations to come, what we did will look like fraud.

Don't be so greedy PDK - the climate cult is already sucking $1.5 Trillion a year out of the vaccination, clean water and medical care for the poor. If you are feeling guilty just pay some more alms to your local council and feel absolved? Cut out the middle man like a good chap.

"Interest in climate change is becoming an increasingly powerful economic driver, so much so that some see it as an industry in itself whose growth is driven in large part by policy making. The $1.5 trillion global “climate change industry” grew at between 17 and 24 percent annually from 2005-2008, slowing to between 4 and 6 percent following the recession with the exception of 2011’s inexplicable 15 percent growth, according to Climate Change Business Journal."

How about being honest enough to identify your income-stream, Profile?

And of course that article was written in 2015 (same year as the Paris Agreement) - so the industry will be worth far more, would be my guess, in 2019.

Someone should OIA the cost of this consultancy work - and that's just one exercise by the interim committee;

CC is indeed an industry (and a discipline) in its own right, e.g.,

Is that how you view your ancestors? A bunch of fraudsters?

They had the excuse of ignorance - although Malthus, Mill, Soddy, Hubbert, Meadows, Catton etc, could have told them. You could say that since 1800, it has been 'chosen ignorance'.

But ignorance is no longer usable as an excuse.

You know what, I reckon if Malthus and co were around today, they would be just as challenged/ignored now as they were then, the only difference would be they would have the internet to spread further their knowledge but then the deniers have the same internet. Your name might possibly be among them as well.