Randerson Review – New Directions for Resource Management in New Zealand


Author – Blair Dickie, Climate Change Knowledge Hub Leader


The Panel’s comprehensive review recognises the cross-cutting nature of climate change, that the effects are already being felt and are influencing natural systems and the built environment.

It notes the ad hoc and fractured response to both mitigation and adaptation actions to date and recognises the need for alignment of management effort between agencies.

It approaches the topic as an exacerbator of some weather-induced natural hazards and proposes responses to reduce climate-related risk. The recommended legislative solutions are designed to address present gaps in the way we use natural resources and where we live and work.

Proposal for reform

The panel recognized the role of the Climate Change Response Act and that it has recently (November 2019) been extended to include climate adaptation. It proposes the reviewed resource management legislation suite should complement and be supportive of the climate change response legislation.  It proposes the following to better address climate change issues:

  • specify both mitigation of emissions and adaptation to climate change as outcomes to be pursued under a proposed Natural and Built Environments Act and require mandatory national direction for both.
  • introduce mandatory regional spatial strategies under a proposed Strategic Planning Act that address both climate mitigation and adaptation, consistent with national directions developed under the Climate Change Response Act
  • improve the alignment between the allocation of natural resources and space under a proposed Natural and Built Environments Act and the Climate Change Response Act, including through consideration of national adaptation plans in regional spatial strategies (proposed Strategic Planning Act) and regional combined plans
  • enable existing use protections to be modified or extinguished in specified circumstances relating to climate change adaptation through bespoke climate adaptation legislation referred to as the Managed Retreat and Climate Change Adaptation Act
  • make plan-making more efficient and responsive to change, so that it better accommodates the uncertainty associated with climate change adaptation.

Successful policy outcomes are more likely when they are executed through a suite of mutually supporting policy levers (positive incentives, rules with penalties and information). This is not the current situation with respect to climate change policy as national direction (except sea level rise on coastal built environment) is non-existent and implementation is dependent upon the capacity, capability, and resourcing of implementing agencies.

The report has identified four key climate change and natural hazards issues: These are:

  • insufficient focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and planning for a low-emissions economy (mitigation)
  • insufficient focus on addressing the effects of climate change (adaptation) and the risks from natural hazards
  • poor integration across the system, between the Resource Management Act and the Climate Change Response Act
  • capacity, capability, and funding barriers.

It is anticipated that the proposed recommendations will result in a much improved and better-coordinated response to climate challenges.

Specific recommendations

Seven key recommendations are proposed to address identified climate change and natural hazards issues that, if implemented, will require organisational responses from both central government and local government with additional input from mana whenua. These are:

  1. Outcomes should be introduced for the following matters in the purpose and principles of the proposed Natural and Built Environments Act:
    • Reduction of risks from natural hazards
    • Improved resilience to the effects of climate change, including through adaptation
    • Reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
    • Promotion of activities that mitigate emissions or sequester carbon
    • Increased use of renewable energy.

This has the effect of adding direction to the proposed legislation for both adaptation and mitigation by not just managing risks (neutral) but reducing them and secondly by not only recognising the benefit of renewable energy but increasing its use.

  1. Mandatory national direction should be required for:
    • Climate change mitigation consistent with the emissions reduction plan under the Climate Change Response Act and in a way that aligns with and supports emissions pricing
    • Climate change adaptation and reduction of risks from natural hazards consistent with the national climate change risk assessment and national adaptation plan under the Climate Change Response Act

This has the effect of not only preserving but strengthening the recently created link (2020 Amendment to the Resource Management Act) between national climate change directions for both emissions reductions and the National Adaptation Plan with resource management regulations.

  1. Regional spatial strategies developed under the proposed Strategic Planning Act should be used to address at a strategic level:
    • climate change mitigation, informed by the emissions reduction plan under the Climate Change Response Act
    • climate change adaptation and natural hazard risk reduction, informed by the national adaptation plan under the Climate Change Response Act.

This recommendation clearly foresees the proposed regional-scale spatial strategies (to be prepared by a collective of central government, local government and iwi) as a long term (>100 years for climate change) alignment tool bringing together the functions exercised under the:

  • proposed Natural and Built Environments Act,
  • Local Government Act,
  • Land Transport Management Act and
  • Climate Change Response Act.

The requirement for a regional spatial strategy is designed to allow a platform for central and local government and mana whenua to reach agreement on environmental and development matters within the context of a changing climate and increasing hazard risk profile. It is the intention that they inform detailed planning for land use and infrastructure in combined plans under the proposed Natural and Built Environments Act.

It is also envisaged that the regional spatial strategies will be critical components in economic transition to a low carbon emissions future, potentially through identification of land use and locations for low emissions settlements, transport, and renewable energy opportunities for electricity generation.

It is clear (transitional sections) that the Review Panel considers the proposed legislation requiring this work should precede the proposed Managed Retreat and Climate Change Adaptation Act. It also recommends that some work should commence immediately, such as data collection and analysis to establish a robust evidence base for setting targets and limits.

This will also align funding of projects through central and local government funding processes.

  1. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions, climate change adaptation and reducing risks from natural hazards should be included in the functions and powers of both regional councils and territorial authorities under the proposed Natural and Built Environments Act.
  2. Combined plans should be used to regulate land and resource use to give effect to the national direction and implement spatial strategies. This would include provisions under the proposed Natural and Built Environments Act to allow for adaptive planning measures

These two recommendations recognise that both territorial and regional councils will need to work together to develop a single combined plan for each region as the different agencies have complementary roles and functions and integration will be promoted if both have the same relationship to the issues and have the opportunity to progress responses concurrently. This should avoid the present mismatch of subtly different functions progressed through separate planning instruments.

  1. Powers under the proposed Natural and Built Environments Act to modify established land uses should be used to address climate change adaptation and reduction of risks from natural hazards.

This provision would apply to both the allocation of space and access to natural resources. It would apply to land uses that become no longer tenable and would allow territorial authorities to match zoning with financial policy levers proposed under new climate adaptation legislation. It would also preserve the existing regional council ability to change conditions to access water during times of extended drought.

  1. A Managed Retreat and Climate Change Adaptation Act should be introduced to:
    • provide for managed retreat, powers to change established land uses and to address liability and options for potential compensation
    • establish an adaptation fund to enable central and local government to support the necessary steps to address climate change adaptation and reduction of risks from natural hazards.

This proposal for bespoke climate adaptation legislation recognises that additional policy levers are needed to undo past land-use decisions and that funding incentives will be required to do this. It will be essential in addressing the exacerbated risks affecting settlements in the coastal environment. Sea level rise will affect coastal communities over the entire country, and the location of some will no longer make sense in a climate-changed world.

Reliance on regulatory solutions at the local government level have up until now been fraught and inconsistent responses have the potential to negatively affect the increasingly dynamic coastal environment. The issues are clearly beyond the capacity of local government (addressing legacy decisions with regulatory policy levers alone) and the financial ability of local communities to respond.