Regional conversations on climate change to begin

Horizons Regional Council is asking for feedback on what community values people consider to be at risk due to climate change through an engagement campaign which will help inform a regional risk assessment.

The project is being led by Horizons on behalf of the Palmerston North City Council and Ruapehu, Whanganui, Rangitīkei, Manawatū, Tararua and Horowhenua district councils.

Horizons chair Rachel Keedwell says the councils are working together to determine what the region’s communities care about when it comes to climate change risk.

“A changing climate is likely to lead to changes in land-use suitability and impacts on primary production. We will also face significant challenges like more frequent and serious flooding,” says Cr Keedwell.

“Climate change is not a problem for the distant future, some of these changes are already starting to be felt. By responding now, we can make our communities more resilient and reduce the overall costs associated with climate change – so this project is a key part of our region’s response.”

“It puts into practice councils’ undertaking, through a memorandum of understanding signed last year, to work collectively for the good of our communities. A new joint committee made up of representatives from each of the eight councils, plus iwi representatives, will oversee action on issues identified through the feedback we receive.”

Horizons data analyst Dr Amy Lennard is helping lead the project and says people’s concerns about climate change might relate to any part of the region they have a connection to, including places where they live, work or play.

“Community values may be physical objects like buildings and roads, features of the environment like native species or landscapes, or they could be less tangible things such as community cohesion and cultural practices,” she says.

“So for example someone might live and work in Palmerston North however spend a lot of time during summer at the beach, so their concerns could be with flooding in the city and reduced beach access due to erosion. Or perhaps someone lives in Turakina Valley where they’re worried about more frequent drought conditions, as well as the impact of warmer temperatures on Mt Ruapehu where they frequently go skiing.

“We’re asking people to use an online map where they can drop place markers to identify what they care about and leave comments. They can also interact with others who have identified areas that they’re concerned with or fill out a survey if they’d like to provide more detailed information.”

Dr Lennard says the information is being gathered through a digital platform called Social Pinpoint, which will help develop a regional risk assessment.

“The assessment itself will identify priorities in adapting to the impacts of climate change in our region, as well as help inform future policies and action plans.

“Community feedback will be used alongside scientific reports and data, mātauranga Māori and expert knowledge. We’ve also begun conversations with iwi representatives, as their values and local knowledge will be important considerations.

“Responding to climate change will take time and this community engagement is one of many steps on our region’s climate change journey. The risk assessment, and your contribution to it, will help focus our efforts and inform work that will extend over years to come.”

Dr Lennard says Horizons is also welcoming feedback via email or mail through and Freepost 217922, Private Bag 11025, Manawatu Mail Centre, by 4 October.

“I suggest people keep an eye on our social media accounts and check their letterboxes next week for the Across the Region publication – we are providing a lot more information about Horizons’ climate change journey and other pieces of work through these channels.”

For more information about the project click here.