News | 1 May 2023
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Roadmap to shape Wellington’s response to climate change

Wellington communities at high risk of severe weather events will be directly involved in creating their own adaption plans alongside Wellington City Council and other stakeholders.

Boat ramp sign in Island Bay under water during heavy storm.

The Council’s new six-phase Community Climate Adaptation Programme will, over the next six years, create a series of local adaptation plans that have been developed by and for each community.


The programme has been adopted following a vote at a meeting of the Council’s Kōrau Tūāpapa Environment and Infrastructure Committee. The report on the programme can be read here in the agenda to last week’s meeting.


The starting point is a flexible community engagement ‘roadmap’ to help the most affected communities in Pōneke prepare for and adapt to the unavoidable local impacts of climate change.


Steps to explore a regional partnership to ensure a consistent and collaborative approach to local adaptation planning will also be included. This would include stakeholders who share responsibility for the implementation.


Mayor Tory Whanau says community participation to help create long-term resilience is important.


“This isn’t going to be an easy process. There will be difficult conversations and tough decisions will have to be made – including facing the possible need for managed retreat from high-risk locations. It’s important that Wellingtonians engage in the process from the very start. It’s their city.


“Climate adaptation is a long-term, multi-generational challenge. As far as practicable, we must get our response right. We owe it to those currently facing climate issues and to future generations who choose to make Wellington their home.” 


The ‘roadmap’ builds on lessons from the Council’s previous community climate adaptation projects including those for Makara Beach and Owhiro Bay.


Committee Chair Tamatha Paul says community interest in climate change adaptation is accelerating in Wellington – examples include the formation of the Coastal Communities and Climate Change group. Communities are also increasingly looking to the Council for leadership on local climate adaptation planning.   


“We live in a hilly, coastal city that is highly exposed to climate change impacts and has limited options to relocate infrastructure, businesses and homes. It’s vital that we enable evidence-based climate adaptation decisions to respond to the climate and ecological emergencies declared by the Council.”


Lessons from the Auckland floods and Cyclone Gabrielle recovery efforts will inform the Council’s work which will also acknowledge the Government’s proposed Climate Change Adaptation Act.


The first three phases of the programme are funded through a $700,000 grant from the Department of Internal Affairs’ Better Off fund and $50,000 from the $US1 million prize money awarded to the Council when it won the Bloomberg Global Mayors Challenge.


Funding for subsequent phases will be informed through the Long-term Plan which is going through an extensive public engagement process.


The roadmap has been developed using the lessons and frameworks being implemented by councils elsewhere in New Zealand, including Takutai Kāpiti, South Dunedin Future, Christchurch City Council’s Coastal Adaptation Programme, Auckland’s Shoreline Adaptation Plans, the Hawkes Bay Coastal Hazards Strategy and the Nelson Climate Adaptation initiative


In related work, Wellington City Council’s climate adaptation team is leading the coordination of the Wellington Regional Climate Change Impacts Assessment being delivered by Beca, NIWA and GNS next month (June). It is being carried out on behalf of Greater Wellington Regional Council and the region’s seven other territorial authorities (Porirua City, Hutt City, Upper Hutt City, Kāpiti Coast District, South Wairarapa District, Carterton District and Masterton District) and is the first part of the Wellington Regional Leadership Committee’s Regional Climate Adaptation Plan.