Climate Action Joint Committee plans to tackle regional risks head on

The Minister for Climate Change Hon. James Shaw joined Horizons Regional Council’s Climate Action Joint Committee yesterday, where members selected Dr Huhana Smith to join Cr Rachel Keedwell as co-chair, received the Manawatū-Whanganui Climate Risk Assessment, and progressed planning to respond to climate change within the region.

Minister Shaw said he was pleased to join regional leaders and to discuss this crucial issue.

“Our Government has made sure that climate change is a factor in all major decisions. Ensuring ministers are aware of the implications a decision may have for New Zealand's future greenhouse gas emissions is vital to ensuring we all playing our part in meeting the commitments we've made," says Mr Shaw.

“Empowering leadership at a local level through councils and iwi and hapū is also a crucial part of the work we are doing to reduce emissions and meet our climate targets.” 

Cr Keedwell says the committee are happy to assist with any national policy development and has encouraged the government to engage with the region.

“Today was the second meeting of the recently formed Climate Action Joint Committee, and the first time tangata whenua representatives with voting rights have been formally appointed to any Horizons committee,” says Cr Keedwell.

“The meeting was a milestone both in terms of our response to climate change and in our partnership with iwi, which will enrich deliberations and improve decision making.

“In addition to the two co-chairs, and seven tangata whenua members, membership of the committee includes seven territorial authority members with the mayor from each of the region’s city and district councils.

“Tangata Whenua appointments were made by Horizons on the recommendation of iwi leaders, taking into consideration their skills, attributes or knowledge that will assist the work of the Committee.

“It’s fantastic to have them at the table and to have Dr Smith as my fellow co-chair,” says Cr Keedwell.

“Their input will be bringing a welcome perspective, where we can complement central government decisions with the knowledge of tangata whenua, our local communities and councils to ensure our response reflects our region’s needs.”

Dr Smith says the Committee’s purpose is to receive Mātauranga Māori, local iwi/hapū intergenerational knowledge of place and scientific evidence to inform strategic leadership on how the Manawatū-Whanganui Region could achieve climate change mitigation, adaptation and transition.

“It is also where the development of these climate change objectives for the region will be informed, where information is shared, to facilitate collaborative action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and prepare vulnerable areas across the rohe for climate change impacts,” says Dr Smith.

At today’s meeting the committee received the first Manawatū-Whanganui Climate Change Risk Assessment report. Commissioned by Horizons Regional Council, the report identifies risks across the region, and within each district, associated with a changing climate.

Cr Keedwell says the report was developed from a wide range of evidence including hazard information consistent with the IPCC report released in August 2021, community and iwi values, and engagement with subject matter experts.

“At a high level, the anticipated changes we can expect to see in our region include more hot days and fewer frosts; more and heavier rain in the west, and less rain in the east; more floods; rising sea levels contributing to coastal inundation and shoreline retreat; and a loss of snow cover and depth,” says Cr Keedwell.

“These impacts have the potential to disrupt tourism, transport networks, and food production. They also threaten cultural sites of significance, estuaries, eco-systems, people and property.

“Tackling many of the risks highlighted in the Climate Change Risk Assessment will require the region’s councils to understand community concerns, develop solutions, and ensure a mandate for action.

Dr Smith says the region has three challenges to address: mitigation, adaption and transition.

“Planning needs to consider how we reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in order to reduce the severity of climate change, how we adapt to the impacts of a changing climate, and how we manage the process of change so that costs fall fairly and to minimise unintended consequences,” says Dr Smith. 

“The Joint Committee have agreed to form a working group consisting of committee members, mana whenua and council staff to progress the development of a regional climate action plan.

“Each council will need to work closely with iwi and hapū to identify priorities in their district to ensure key issues facing communities across our region are tackled effectively.

“This group will report back to the Joint Committee in March 2022 on key objectives or issues to be addressed at a regional scale before presenting the full Action Plan by the end of 2022.”

The Manawatū-Whanganui Climate Risk Assessment report and other information about actions underway can be found on Horizons Regional Council’s website here.

Climate Action Joint Committee Co-chair Dr Smith affiliates to Ngāti Tukorehe, Kuku, Horowhenua and Ngāti Raukawa ki te Tonga.

The other tangata whenua members include:

  • Chris Shenton, Ngā Wairiki Ngāti Apa, Te Atihaunui a Pāpārangi, Muaūpoko, Ngāi Te Ohuake, Ngāti Hauiti
  • Hannah Rainforth, Ngāti Hauiti, Ngāti Rangi, Te Ātihaunui a Pāpārangi
  • James Kendrick, Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairoa
  • Jill Sheehy, Te Rūnanga o Tūpoho, Te Atihaunui a Pāpārangi
  • Lorraine Stephenson, Rangitāne o Tamaki Nui a Rua
  • Jonathan Proctor, Muaūpoko, Ngāti Apa and Ngāi Tahu