Kapiti Council says Law reform needed to help communities adapt to climate change

Kapiti Councillor Sophie Handford

Kāpiti Coast District Council says local authorities are on the front line when it comes to helping their communities adapt to climate change and need more central government support such as adequate funding, and greater clarity around roles and responsibilities.

“Without legislative reform to ensure that councils have the right tools and supports available, it will remain incredibly difficult to take the type of bold action required to help our communities adapt to our changing climate,” the Council says in a submission to the Ministry for the Environment’s consultation on a national approach to climate change adaptation.

“Legislative reform will also enable more consistent approaches nationwide, giving confidence to our communities that we are acting within appropriately defined parameters,” the Council says.

Mayor K Gurunathan said local authorities need legal changes to back their efforts to help their communities adapt to the impacts of climate change such as sea level rise or more frequent and extreme flooding.

“Long-term climate change adaptation often requires difficult decisions, so it’s critical that local councils have the tools and resources to reduce our communities’ exposure to changing climate risks without it becoming a political football.

“We need clear roles, responsibilities and frameworks to minimise the risk of legal challenges otherwise the courts will effectively be making policy for us while the costs of litigation continue to fall on our ratepayers. If local government is to lead this work, we need both the legal powers and the money to pay for it,” Mayor Gurunathan said.

Climate change portfolio lead Councillor Sophie Handford said central government could also help by supporting low carbon initiatives such as public transport.

“Reducing our emissions continues to be an important part of the adaptation story as it will help reduce the rate and severity of change. In Kāpiti, 57 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions are from light transport so the Government’s lack of support in Budget 2022 for extending the commuter rail line north of Waikanae was incredibly disappointing,” Cr Handford said.