Climate change adaptation and central government

Outline of central government's role in helping New Zealand prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Role of central government

Central government sets the direction so that New Zealand’s national infrastructure, people, environment and economy are more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

Central government:

  • provides the legislative and policy framework
  • provides information and guidance to support local government and businesses to make effective adaptive decisions
  • funds research and publishes information on climate change impacts
  • prepares for and responds to major natural hazard events.

In November 2016 the Government asked a group of technical experts across the public and private sectors to provide advice on how New Zealand could adapt to the effects of climate change. 

Find out about the Climate change adaptation technical working group and its stocktake and recommendations reports.

Legislative and policy framework

The key piece of legislation for adapting to climate change and associated natural hazards. All people exercising duties and functions under the RMA are required to have particular regard to the effects of climate change and this is undertaken as part of wider natural hazards management.

One of the changes introduced by the Resource Legislation Amendment Act 2017 is that “the management of significant risks from natural hazards” is a new matter of national importance in section 6 of the RMA.

The Act provides for hazards and risks, and emergency response and recovery.

The strategy sets out what New Zealanders expect from civil defence emergency management and what we want to achieve.

The importance of taking into account the implications of climate change for infrastructure management is reflected in 'Our climate is changing and our natural resources are under pressure' on page 16.

The NPS-FM provides national policy direction to regional councils on freshwater management and requires regional councils to have regard to the reasonably foreseeable impacts of climate change. The NPS-FM was amended in 2017.

The NZ CPS includes specific policies for the management of coastal hazards and requires consideration of the effects of climate change.

Information and guidance

Central government provides information and guidance on climate change effects that are most likely to have a significant impact at a regional, national or sector level. This is so local government, engineers, businesses and individuals have access to the information they need in order to adapt. The Ministry for the Environment coordinates the central government adaptation programme.

Resources include:


Central government is spending approximately $100 million over 10 years on research and projects relating to adapting to climate change. This research will assist local councils, businesses, individuals and communities to identify impacts and implement effective adaptation solutions.

Research initiatives include:

A project to update and improve projections of climate trends, variability and extremes across New Zealand out to 2100

The purpose of this initiative is to increase New Zealand's resilience to natural hazards through high quality collaborative research.

NIWA is developing guidelines and advice to help coastal communities adapt to climate change. 

Understanding the role of the Antarctic and Southern Ocean in determining our climate and our future environment, to enable New Zealanders to adapt, manage risk and thrive in a changing climate.

Enhancing New Zealand's ability to anticipate, adapt and thrive in the face of ever-changing natural hazards.

Related initiatives