Planning in a changing climate: How is climate change being incorporated into land use plans?

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Mathieson, J.E.; Saunders, W.S.A.; Coomer, M.E. 2017 Planning in a changing climate: How is climate change being incorporated into land use plans? Lower Hutt, N.Z.: GNS Science. GNS Science report 2017/29. 61 p.; doi: 10.21420/G2B64S

Abstract: Climate change is not likely to create new hazards or risks; rather, it will change the likelihood, extent and severity of existing hazards, usually in an adverse manner. These will include droughts, wildfires, floods, landslides, as well as sea level rise. Local government has a range of functions around how planning is undertaken under the Resource Management Act 1991. Local authorities, namely city and district councils, have roles and responsibilities that may be impacted by climate change, some of which include: land use planning and decision making, building control, emergency management, and the provision of infrastructure and community services. The purpose of this study is to identify the district plans in New Zealand that are planning for climate change and sea level rise, and to review and evaluate the planning provisions. This includes an assessment of the information contained in the plan on climate change and/or sea level rise, the plans objectives, policies, rules, methods, anticipated environmental outcomes, and how or if climate change and sea level rise is mapped. The research drew upon the plan content analysis undertaken by Saunders, Beban, and Coomer (2014), to identify the district plans that currently provide planning provisions for climate change and sea level rise. There are inconsistencies and absences within district plans around the country for dealing with the hazard and risks of climate change and sea level rise. More district councils need to identify the areas that are likely to be affected by sea level rise; map potential affected areas in their district plans; and have a policy approach to manage future sea level rise in these mapped areas. Many of the district plans are still considering climate change and sea level rise from a single event perspective, and are not considering the cumulative or cascading effects from coastal hazards. Most councils were not planning for avoidance or retreat from areas that are likely to be affected by sea level rise, or from an increase in flooding events due to climate change. Some district plans manage climate change through their sea level rise policies, and are generally only concerned with the coastal environment. There needs to be more consideration given to how climate change could affect other hazards (e.g. higher intensity rainfall could produce more landslides), and how that might affect some land uses in certain areas. There are a number of inconsistencies between the objectives and policies for climate change and sea level rise. There are only nine district plans that provided a specific objective for climate change or sea level rise, meaning that the remaining 60 councils either relied on an ‘all hazards’ objective or did not include it at all. Within each district plan there needs to at least one objective with associated policies aimed at reducing the risks from climate change and for coastal districts, sea level rise. Policies for climate change and sea level rise need to be more directive in what they are trying to achieve. The majority of policies were typically general in what they were trying to achieve, and did not provide enough guidance on what course of action was required to achieve or implement the plan’s objectives. (auth)