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"Adapt and thrive": Government invites submissions on draft first national adaptation plan

Home Insights "Adapt and thrive": Government invites submissions on draft first national adaptation plan

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Contributed by: Hannah Bain and Jacob Burton

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Published on: April 29, 2022


The Ministry for the Environment has released for consultation a draft of the first national adaptation plan (NAP) under the Climate Change Response Act 2002 (CCRA), together with a consultation document in relation to both the NAP and managed retreat.

Summary of the consultation and next steps

The NAP responds to priority risks identified in the first National Climate Change Risk Assessment published in August 2020 and outlines actions that the Government proposes to take over the next six years to adapt and build resilience to climate change. It includes both proposed actions and actions which are already part of the Government's response to climate change.1

The proposals set out in the NAP and the accompanying consultation document are wide-ranging and will impact all of Aotearoa (with some groups, such as Māori, affected more than others). The NAP is clear that central government will not bear every risk and cost associated with adapting to climate change, and risks and costs will fall across different segments of society, including local and central government, property owners, banks and insurers.

The current consultation accordingly represents a significant opportunity for businesses, individuals and other interested parties to contribute to the way in which New Zealand responds to the significant challenges we are already facing and will increasingly face as a result of a changing climate.  

The consultation period for the NAP closes on 3 June 2022 and the final NAP will be published in August 2022. If you would like assistance in responding to the consultation or preparing a submission, please get in touch with one of our experts below or your usual Russell McVeagh contact.

Further details in relation to the proposals in the NAP are set out below.

Managed retreat and flood insurance

Two particularly significant proposals in the NAP are:

  • The passage of "managed retreat" legislation (ie planned relocation of assets, activities and sites of cultural significance away from at-risk areas).
  • The development of options for home flood insurance, given the increased risks associated with flooding as a result of climate change.

While managed retreat (and reform of the Resource Management Act 1991 more generally) has been on the Government's agenda for some time now, the consultation document released alongside the NAP sets out further detail and seeks specific feedback in relation to these proposals. The feedback received will inform the development of the Climate Adaptation Act, which is expected to be introduced by the end of 2023.
For example, feedback is sought in relation to:

  • Proposed objectives and principles to guide the development of legislation and the approach to funding issues (including central government's funding responsibilities).
  • A proposed high-level process for a managed retreat process (recognising that the process will not be identical for every retreat).
  • How roles and responsibilities should be allocated between various parties, including local and central government, iwi/Māori, affected communities, individuals, businesses and the wider public, and the allocation of costs.
  • How issues relating to the transfer of land should be dealt with, including the circumstances in which people should be required to move from their homes. The consultation document signals that careful consideration will need to be given in particular to Māori land and land acquired through the Treaty settlement process.  
  • How insurance could interact with managed retreat. This includes whether the government should have a role in supporting flood insurance as climate change risks cause private insurance retreat.

Other actions under the NAP

The NAP is focused on three key areas, being:

  • Reforming institutions to be fit for a changing climate.
  • The provision of data, information and guidance to enable people to assess and adapt to climate risk.
  • Embedding climate resilience in government strategies and policies.

The NAP also identifies a number of "outcome areas", being:

  • System-wide actions.
  • Natural environment.
  • Homes, buildings and places.
  • Infrastructure.
  • Communities.
  • Economy and financial system.

The NAP sets out numerous actions relating to each of the key focus and outcome areas. For example, current and proposed actions under the plan include:

System-wide actions

  • Reform of the resource management system through replacing the Resource Management Act 1991 with a Natural and Built Environments Act, a Strategic Planning Act and a Climate Change Adaptation Act. See our previous update here.
  • The passage of legislation to support managed retreat (see above).
  • Reform of institutional arrangements for water services. See our previous update here.
  • Modernisation of the emergency management system.
  • An independent review into the future for Local Government.
  • The design and development of an Adaptation Information Portal.
  • Delivering targeted non-statutory guidance to enable decision makers to assess and plan to manage climate-related risks.
  • Public investment in climate change initiatives (eg through the Climate Emergency Response Fund and Sovereign Green Bond programme).

Natural environments

  • Implementation of key programme and actions in relation to the natural environment, including the Department of Conservation's Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan.

Homes, buildings and places

  • Building property resilience, by supporting households and businesses to assess and respond to climate-related risks.
  • Other initiatives relating to housing (such as establishing an initiative for resilient public housing).
  • Supporting kaitiaki communities to adapt and conserve taonga / cultural assets.


  • Developing a methodology for assessing impacts on physical assets and the services they provide to assist owners to understand and manage risks.
  • Scoping a resilience standard or code for infrastructure.
  • Integrating adaptation into Treasury decisions on infrastructure.
  • Developing and implementing the Waka Kotahi Climate Change Adaptation Action Plan.


  • Raising awareness of climate-related hazards and how to prepare.
  • Developing a Health National Adaptation plan.

Economy and financial system

  • Delivering the national Freight and Supply Chain strategy.
  • Reform of the fisheries system and delivering the Aquaculture Strategy.
  • Supporting high-quality implementation of climate-related disclosures (as introduced by the Financial Sector (Climate-related Disclosures and Other Matters) Amendment Act 2021) and exploring expansion of that regime.
  • Action by the Reserve Bank of New Zealand to help regulated financial entities better identify and manage climate risks.

Developing options for home flood insurance issues.

  1. The NAP does not detract from the need to mitigate climate change through emissions reduction – that work programme is the subject of the separate first emissions reduction plan, the final version of which is due to be released in May this year.

This article is intended only to provide a summary of the subject covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. No person should act in reliance on any statement contained in this publication without first obtaining specific professional advice. If you require any advice or further information on the subject matter of this newsletter, please contact the partner/solicitor in the firm who normally advises you, or alternatively contact one of the partners listed below.

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