The Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) has appealed to incoming mayors, councillors, and community board members to give priority to investments in community-centred climate resilience.
The industry body said that local governments are at the forefront of responding to natural disasters, which cost communities hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Beyond financial losses, disasters are risks to life and safety also have a huge negative impact on community health and wellbeing, amenity value and various environmental and cultural aspects.
“Investing in measures to reduce climate risks will have widespread benefits for communities and will help support the affordability of insurance the length and breadth of the motu,” said Tim Grafton, ICNZ chief executive. “Incoming councils must understand the risks facing their communities and to put in place proportionate and timely measures to manage them.”
Early this year, the publication of the NZ SeaRise tool highlighted parts of the country that need immediate investment before relative sea level rise presents an intolerable risk to communities, ICNZ said. It also showed other communities must act but have more time to do so.
The insurers’ organisation also said that for every home at direct risk as a consequence of relative sea level rise, an estimated ten homes are at risk of flooding following extreme rainfall events. For such areas, the need for action is often even more urgent.
The influence of repeated extreme rain events, sometimes compounded by background seismic activity, is now being seen on the incidence of slips and related damage and disruption. This results in some communities being cut off for days at a time several times a year and questions being raised over the long-term viability of some roads.
“Our communities face multiple climate-related risks. All incoming councils have must act to address these if they are to maintain the viability of their communities over the medium to long terms,” Grafton said. “I hope that both electors and those they elect approach climate change as if the future of their communities depends upon it being taken seriously – because it does.”