Media release

ORC presents first Otago Climate Change Risk Assessment

Wednesday 10 March 2021

The Otago Regional Council (ORC) received its first Otago Climate Change Risk Assessment (OCCRA) at a meeting of the Data and Information Committee today. The Risk Assessment is a milestone report on the impacts of climate change and its associated risks and opportunities for the region. The report is publicly available on the ORC website for anyone to view.

The OCCRA report is based on the climate change projection study by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), commissioned by ORC.

All district and city councils in Otago were consulted, and sector leads and experts from Otago and beyond had input. Over 70 groups and specialists were invited to contribute to the Risk Assessment, such as the Department of Conservation, Heritage New Zealand, New Zealand Insurance Council, and the Otago Chamber of Commerce.

The Risk Assessment was undertaken with input from Aukaha and Kā Rūnaka, and staff will continue to work with Rūnaka on a Kāi Tahu approach to climate change risk assessment.

Data and Information Committee Co-Chair Cr Alexa Forbes said the report brought the risks of climate change into sharp focus.

“This report gives us a clear picture of the dramatic ways in which climate change is set to affect our region over the coming decades. Climate change will exacerbate existing challenges and introduce new ones. Its effects will be felt in every part of Otago, across our natural and built environments, economy, governance, and society.

“This report will help guide actions within and beyond ORC: it is filled with data and projections that will inform how we as a region adapt to the challenges and rise to the opportunities of climate change. We anticipate that planners and decision-makers at local councils and in industry sectors will be using this information for years,” Cr Forbes said.

“Plus, it will be repeated every six years, ensuring that the latest climate change projections are used, and supporting people around Otago with the most up to date information to prioritise adaptation planning.”

The Risk Assessment provides an overview of how Otago may be affected as a consequence of climate change-related hazards, such as more severe and frequent weather events.

The report not only highlights risks across five domains, including natural environment; built environment; economy; society and governance; but also opportunities that climate change may bring to Otago – such as allowing different crops to thrive in the region.

ORC General Manager Operations Gavin Palmer said the Risk Assessment added a closer, regional lens to the Ministry for the Environment’s National Climate Change Risk Assessment, released in August 2020.

“The methodological approach developed for the OCCRA is well-aligned with the approach used by the government on a national scale, which ensures that the assessments are complementary.

“The report uses temperature projections under a particular climate change scenario to assess risks in three timeframes: the present day, mid-century, and by the end of the century,” Dr Palmer said.

“It takes a broad, wide-ranging, and high-level perspective of risks, beyond the focus on sea-level rise and natural hazards in coastal areas. It considers the breadth of climate change impacts – across domains, sectors, geography, and time.

“Much of what we do in Otago hinges on the region’s climate, so we need to have a clear picture, collectively, of how that climate is changing.”

The risk assessment complements three other ORC projects focused on climate change mitigation: an analysis of ORC’s greenhouse gas emissions presented to Council in November 2020, the Otago Regional Greenhouse Gas Inventory, and an investigation into the feasibility of lower emissions public transport.

ORC is planning a significant public engagement campaign designed to interactively communicate the findings of the OCCRA with a wide range of stakeholders across Otago. This will raise awareness of the risks of climate change, as well as create opportunities for ORC, communities, and organisations to work together in the face of climate change.

The Risk Assessment is planned to be renewed by 2026.

View the Otago Climate Change Risk Assessment online.