NCCRA: What does it mean for community engagement?

NCCRA: What does it mean for community engagement?

It’s become very clear that no corner of Aotearoa New Zealand will be untouched by climate change, at some stage over the next 100 years.

That’s going to mean that communities are going to need to determine how they will respond to the unique risks they face.

The first National Climate Change Risk Assessment (NCCRA), released by Climate Change Minister James Shaw in early August, provides national-level direction for New Zealand's climate change priorities.

Central to the success of implementing New Zealand's response is how well government, asset, amenity and infrastructure owners engage with their respective communities, stakeholders and Māori during the planning phase.

Community engagement around climate change is as complex and difficult as the subject itself. Developing responses to climate change is a highly specialist area of expertise. 

It would be tempting to simply commission desktop reports to make technical recommendations and then inform others about the findings of the exercise. However, there are many benefits to a collaborative approach which focusses on deliberate community engagement, as well as the technical aspects of climate change risk assessment and adaptation.

Meaningful engagement can allow for solutions to be created together over time, rather than imposing outcomes on affected stakeholders. By identifying the things that people value early in the process, subsequent research and assessment can focus on those priorities. People might not necessarily agree with the final decision, but well-executed engagement can form the basis of a transparent process where people know right from the get-go about what their options might be.

Meaningful engagement also requires embedding the information that you’ve gleaned from the engagement process into the outcomes. This can be challenging, and requires planned, sustained and inclusive effort to complete successfully. Identifying and briefing the right team members for each engagement exercise is particularly important. This could include the host organisation and subject matter experts, supported by team members with engagement expertise.

Getting representation from different perspectives and worldviews is also a challenge for successful engagement. However, the intergenerational and equity issues presented by climate change mean that it is vital to put both existing and future communities at the heart of the process. Engaging with stakeholders, community and iwi can seem daunting, but done well, it’s not only successful and sustainable, it’s incredibly insightful and rewarding.

My view is that the Te Ao Māori worldview is fundamental to Aotearoa’s approach to climate change adaptation. Māori and iwi who provided input into the NCCRA are already planning for, and adapting to, climate change. As acknowledged in the NCCRA, Mātauranga Māori is an integrated, holistic worldview which provides a framework to addressing the long-term, complex issues that climate change presents, provided the correct kaupapa and tikanga are followed.

We are just starting to understand the implications of climate change for our communities both now and into the future. In the face of uncertainty, it’s a natural reaction to become fearful. However, planning for an uncertain future by being proactive and identifying viable options and possibilities for, and with, our communities, provides a degree of certainty in itself.

You can read the NCCRA report on the Ministry for the Environment’s website. If you would like to discuss stakeholder engagement, please reach out by email and I will get back in touch with you.