First national climate change risk assessment for New Zealand: Identifying risk priorities 

Aotearoa New Zealand needs to be better prepared to adapt to the effects of climate change. This page has information about the first national climate change risk assessment which is underway. It includes opportunities on how to get involved. 

About the first national climate change risk assessment 

The first national climate change risk assessment will provide an overview of how New Zealand may be affected by climate change. The Government will use it to prioritise action to reduce risks or take advantage of opportunities through a national adaptation plan.

Work on the first risk assessment began in September 2019. It is expected to be complete by mid-2020. The Climate Change Commission will be required to conduct a risk assessment every six years under the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act. 

National climate change risk assessments were a recommendation of the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group which advised the Government on climate change adaptation.  

See the group’s final report released in May 2018: Adapting to climate change in New Zealand: Recommendations from the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group.

Framework for the first risk assessment 

The framework, Arotakenga Huringa Āhuarangi, has been developed for the risk assessments by a panel of experts. It enables a range of risks to be compared according to their nature, severity and urgency. It combines scientific, technical and expert information with Mātauranga Māori, local knowledge and experience.  

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

Read the Beehive press release announcing the appointment of the panel [Beehive website].

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 first assessment is being led 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 are: 

  • 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 will be conducted in the following three stages. 

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

This stage will identify potential risks from climate change to Aotearoa New Zealand through an engagement and literature review process.
Risks will be screened and prioritised to deliver a set of prioritised national risks. 

Input will be 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 will consider and agree to the prioritised national risks that will progress to Stage 2 of the analysis.

Stage 2:  Detailed risk assessment – February to March 2020

This stage will further investigate the prioritised national risks to understand the nature of the hazards, exposure and vulnerability that contribute to the risks. This will determine which risks should be considered in the development of the National Adaptation Plan. 

Stage 3: Adaptation and decision urgency assessment – April 2020

In this stage prioritised national risks will be ranked for adaptation and decision urgency. Stage 3 will also identify where gaps exist and quick decisions are needed. It will highlight where early action could reap benefits from changing climatic circumstances.

Engagement events 

The project team will gather data and seek input at all three stages of the first risk assessment. Engagement events will be 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.

The risks identified as a priority in stage 1 will be examined in detail during stage 2.

Stage 2 engagement 

The second stage has started and workshops will be held in February 2020. These workshops will examine the priority risks identified during stage 1. Each workshop will focus on a different domain. These workshops will be attended by stakeholders and partners with an interest or expertise in the domain areas. Also in February there will be hui with iwi/Māori in which the risk assessment will be discussed.

Find out more


  • for more information on the events above
  • to receive updates on the risk assessment work 
  • if you have insights or information to share that could inform the risk assessment.