Climate change work may require more ORC staff

Photo: ODT files
Photo: ODT files
More staff could be required at the Otago Regional Council if the country intends to move ahead with climate change strategies that include relocating homes or shifting community assets away from at-risk coastal areas.

Moreover, because some communities might say they are happy to live with the risks they face, there ought to be a framework for the difficult discussions ahead, the council says.

Council staff recorded general support for the Ministry for the Environment’s approach to New Zealand’s first "national adaptation plan" during a recent consultation period.

Council climate change principal adviser Francisco Hernandez presented the staff submission to councillors last week.

The ministry’s work towards legislation to support "managed retreat" received the most attention in the submission.

In it, Mr Hernandez said conversations ahead about a "tolerable risk" for a community must also balance the needs of the wider community, including future generations.

A clear definition of a "tolerable risk" would help with difficult questions such as when it was fair for a community to be required to be part of a managed retreat programme, he said.

Where managed retreat was deemed necessary it would be essential to develop legislation with clear, strong enforcement mechanisms, as well as to fairly compensate property owners.

"In undertaking managed retreat, local government needs to assign an end owner for the land that is retreated from, so that it is not abandoned and continues to provide some value to the community," he said.

The council submission noted that as a result of a managed retreat it was likely there would be changes to the regional council resource consent process.

There would be increasing protection works for coastal environments and structures; more demand for water storage and supplementary water takes; and increased need for flood protection works and river maintenance.

Work related to more, and new, sustainable energy projects, would require increased staff.

Submissions closed last month.

The ministry has indicated a final adaptation plan will be published next month.

The legislation is to be covered by proposed climate adaptation legislation which is due to be introduced to the House by the end of next year.



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