First national climate change risk assessment for Aotearoa New Zealand

Aotearoa New Zealand needs to be better prepared to adapt to the effects of climate change. This page has information about New Zealand’s first national climate change risk assessment. 

About the first national climate change risk assessment 

The first national climate change risk assessment will identify the most significant risks New Zealand faces from climate change. This will enable the Government to prioritise action, including through a national adaptation plan. 

The national adaptation plan will compliment and build on the actions New Zealand is already taking to respond to the impacts of climate change.

Work on the first risk assessment began in September 2019, and will be completed by mid-2020. The risk assessment is on-track to be publicly released later this year. 

The Climate Change Commission is required to conduct a risk assessment every six years under the Climate Change Response Act. 

Framework for the first risk assessment 

The framework, Arotakenga Huringa Āhuarangi, was developed to carry out the national climate change risk assessment by a panel of experts. It allows for a range of risks to be compared according to their nature, severity and urgency. It combines scientific, technical and expert information including Mātauranga Māori, local knowledge and experience.  

Read Arotakenga Huringa Āhuarangi: A Framework for the National Climate Change Risk Assessment for Aotearoa New Zealand.

This framework can be used by local government, iwi/Māori and other organisations to perform their own climate change risk assessments. Templates and guidance materials are included. 

Project team leading the first risk assessment

The national climate change risk assessment has been developed by AECOM together with Tonkin and Taylor, Latitude Strategy and Communication, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and others.

The people responsible for leading work associated with each of the five domains were: 

  • Governance – Dr Judy Lawrence (Victoria University)
  • Economy – Dr Anita Wreford (Lincoln University)
  • Human- Dr Paula Blackett (NIWA)
  • Built Environment – James Hughes (Tonkin & Taylor)
  • Natural Environment – John Leathwick (Conservation science consultant).

Future risk assessments will be undertaken by the Climate Change Commission.

Process for the first risk assessment

The first risk assessment was conducted in the following three stages. 

Stage 1: First-pass risk assessment - October 2019 to January 2020

This stage identified potential risks from climate change to Aotearoa New Zealand through an engagement and literature review process.

Risks were screened and prioritised to deliver a set of prioritised national risks. 

Input was sought from:

  • central and local government
  • climate change experts
  • affected sectors 
  • iwi/Māori representatives 

See engagement events further down the page.

Review – January to February 2020

The Ministry considered and agreed to the prioritised national risks that would progress to Stage 2 of the analysis.

Stage 2:  Detailed risk assessment – February to March 2020

This stage further investigated the prioritised national risks to understand the nature of the hazards, exposure and vulnerability that contributed to the risks. 

Stage 3: Adaptation and decision urgency assessment – February to March 2020

In this stage, prioritised national risks were ranked for adaptation and decision urgency. Stage 3 also identified areas where gaps exist and quick decisions are needed. It highlighted where early action could reap benefits from changing climatic circumstances. This stage was undertaken in parallel to the detailed risk assessment in February to March 2020.

Engagement events 

The project team gathered data and sought input at all three stages of the first risk assessment. Engagement events were held with central and local government, climate change experts, iwi Māori representatives and affected sectors.

Stage 1 engagement 

During stage 1 of the first risk assessment the following events were held in late November 2019:

  • a one-day national workshop on 20 November in Wellington hosting 128 attendees
  • a one-day hui with iwi/Māori with 25 attendees, held on 29 November.

Stage 2 engagement 

The second stage involved workshops and hui with iwi/Māori which were held in February 2020. 

  • The workshops examined the priority risks identified during stage 1. Each workshop focussed on a different domain. These workshops were attended by stakeholders and partners with an interest or expertise in the domain areas. 
  • The hui with iwi/Māori included hui which were focussed on the risk assessment and built on kōrero from stage 1, and hui where the risk assessment was discussed alongside other kaupapa.

Next steps

The national climate change risk assessment is on-track to be publicly released later this year.

The Government will plan and prioritise action to respond to the most significant risks identified in the risk assessment through a national adaptation plan. Under the Climate Change Response Act, the national adaptation plan must be delivered two years after the risk assessment is completed. 

For more details on adaptation actions that the government is already taking to respond to the impacts of climate change see Adapting to climate change.

Find out more

Email if you wish to be kept informed about the risk assessment and the development of the national adaptation plan over the next two years.