Climate change adaptation technical working group

This page outlines the role of the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group in helping New Zealand prepare for the impacts of climate change.

About the adaptation group

New Zealand needs to be better prepared to adapt to the effects of climate change. To help achieve this, Minister for Climate Change Issues Paula Bennett has asked a group of technical experts across government and the private sector to provide advice on options for adapting to the effects of climate change.

The group will provide advice to the Minister for Climate Change Issues on options for building New Zealand’s resilience to the effects of climate change while sustainably growing our economy.  Their advice will be based on sound evidence, starting with a stocktake of existing adaptation work across central and local government and the private sector. 

Adaptation expert Dr Judy Lawrence will co-chair the group alongside Penny Nelson, Ministry for the Environment’s Deputy Secretary, Sector Strategy.

The members have careers in fields that are exposed to or require an active response to the impacts of climate change. They include representatives of central and local government, iwi, banking, insurance, engineering, and science. Expertise from other fields will be drawn on in the development of any advice.  

Group members have been appointed for a term of 18 months. They are keen to engage with the public and interested groups throughout their term and will explore innovative ways to do this. 

See Terms of reference [DOC, 21 KB}


Climate change adaptation technical working group members

Dr Judy Lawrence (Co-Chair)

Dr Lawrence is Adjunct Research Fellow, Climate Change Research Institute, Victoria University Wellington (VUW).


She has a PhD in Public Policy on the adequacy of institutional frameworks and practice for climate change adaptation decision-making. She has lead research on community vulnerability, resilience and adaptation to climate change, and on climate change impacts and implications for decision making with regional and local government and sector stakeholders. She currently leads the Cascading Impacts and Implications project in the Deep South National Science Challenge and contributes to the Resilience Governance and The Living Edge projects in the Resilience National Science Challenge.


Her collaborations internationally have brought new adaptive pathways planning approaches to New Zealand resource management, now being adopted by councils. Since 2005 Dr Lawrence has been director of PSConsulting Ltd, a strategy and policy consultancy in science, climate change adaptation and related governance and institutional issues. Prior to this she was director of the New Zealand Climate Change Office at the Ministry for the Environment and has held a range of senior positions across government and in research. 

Penny Nelson (Co-Chair)

Ms Nelson is responsible for the Ministry for the Environment’s strategy and evaluation functions, environmental monitoring and reporting, as well as the Ministry’s interests in the science system and climate change.


She holds policy responsibility for hazardous substances and new organisms, marine management, and New Zealand’s commitments to international environmental agreements, and oversight of the Environmental Protection Authority.


She brings a strong focus on building partnerships across sectors. She also has a wealth of leadership experience in government, business and science, including at the Sustainable Business Council, Ministry for Social Development, Dairy NZ and Landcare Research.

Frances Sullivan, Principal Policy Advisor, LGNZ

Ms Sullivan joined Local Government New Zealand in 2008.


She provides advice, sector advocacy and stakeholder management in the key areas of building regulation and earthquake-prone building policy, climate change, emissions trading, natural hazards, flood risk management, solid waste, biosecurity, biodiversity, and the New Zealand Aid Programme. Ms Sullivan previously worked for Environment Canterbury as a Programme Manager for land, pests, water and air and the regulation group. 

James Hughes, Associate Director – Climate and Resilience, AECOM

Mr Hughes has recently joined Tonkin + Taylor as a climate and resilience specialist. Before this he worked for engineering design experts AECOM (1999-2017).


James has been involved in roles ranging from design and construction of major civil engineering projects through to strategic studies focusing on risk, resilience and sustainability. Much of James’ recent work has focused on the areas of resilience to hazards (including climate change), risk assessments and project sustainability.


He has been involved in a wide range of projects within the broader urban resilience field including the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities Project, climate change adaptation studies, infrastructure resilience assessments. Recently he has been assisting LGNZ with developing risk management frameworks for consultation as part of the proposed Local Government Risk Agency.  He has written and presented extensively on topics relating to risk and resilience as they apply to infrastructure, the built environment and communities. 

Bryce Davies, Senior Manager Government and Stakeholder Relations, IAG

Mr Davies led the development of the first Resilient New Zealand report on the role that businesses can play together to help New Zealand be better prepared for, and recover from, future natural disasters. Resilient New Zealand was set up by engineering, banking, insurance, telecommunications and aid organisations to identify, champion and advocate ways New Zealand can be more resilient to natural disasters.


Before IAG, Mr Davies held roles across the insurance and banking sectors. 

Bruce Wills, farmer and businessman

Mr Wills and his family farm sheep and cattle on the hills north of Napier and run a small on-farm tourist business. Before farming he spent 20 years in banking and investment in Hamilton, Wellington and Auckland.


Mr Wills has a strong focus on the environment, and is a previous Hawkes Bay Farm Environmental Award winner. Mr Wills was the National President of Federated Farmers from 2011 to 2014.  He currently holds Governance roles with Ravensdown, QEII National Trust, Horticulture NZ, Motu Economic & Public Policy Research, Todd Foundation, Primary Growth Partnership P2P, Our Land and Water (National Science challenge) Cape to City, NZ Poplar & Willow Research Trust, Resilience to Nature’s challenges (National Science Challenge) and ApicultureNZ.

Sam Dean, Chief Scientist, Climate and Atmosphere Centre, NIWA

Dr Dean is an expert on the drivers of climate variability in New Zealand and Antarctica, particularly human-induced climate change.


His research has identified the contribution of human-induced warming to intensifying current New Zealand weather extremes like droughts and floods. Recently he has been part of a team investigating the interactions between Antarctic sea-ice, atmospheric circulation and the Southern Ocean.


He joined NIWA in 2006 after working as a researcher at the University of Oxford, UK. He commenced his role as Chief Scientist in 2015, and now oversees all of NIWA’s climate change and hazards science.

Kirk Hope, Chief Executive of BusinessNZ

Mr Hope is Chief Executive of BusinessNZ, New Zealand’s largest business advocacy body, advocating for New Zealand’s success through sustainable market-led growth. 


He previously led the New Zealand Bankers’ Association and Financial Services Federation after holding a range of senior positions at Westpac, including Head of Government Relations and Regulatory Affairs. A barrister and solicitor with a master’s degree in law focused on regulation of financial services, Mr Hope also holds a post graduate honours degree in political science. For five years he was a member of the Commercial and Business Law Committee of the New Zealand Law Society.

Whaimutu Dewes, Lead Advisor to the Climate Change Iwi Leaders Group

Mr Dewes is of Ngati Porou and Ngati Rangitihi descent.  Mr Dewes has been the lead advisor of the Climate Change Iwi Leaders Group since May 2015. He is the Chair of Aotearoa Fisheries Limited and Sealord Group Limited, Ngati Porou Seafoods and Ngati Porou Forestry, and is a director on the boards of Contact Energy, the Treasury (non-executive director) and Ngati Porou Holding Company.


He has also held directorships on Te Ohu Kaimoana (the Maori Fisheries Trust), Television New Zealand, the AMP New Zealand Advisory Board and Housing New Zealand Corporation. Mr Dewes other previous roles include senior management positions at Fletcher Challenge and the Department of Māori Affairs.

Dr Gavin Palmer, Director – Engineering, Hazards and Science, Otago Regional Council

Dr Palmer has been Director of Engineering, Hazards and Science at the Otago Regional Council since 2013. 


Prior to that he held the position of Director Environmental Engineering and Natural Hazards for nine years. In this role he leads work on considering how best to minimise the risk of natural hazards in the Otago Region (such as flood hazards in South Dunedin). This work includes consideration of the effects of climate change on natural hazards.


He has 25 years work experience in the areas of flood protection, land drainage, stormwater management and natural hazards. He has had technical and management roles within Waikato Regional Council, Auckland City Council and Watercare Services Ltd. Mr Palmer is a Member of the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand.