The Dialogues

A child wearing gumboots in mud.

This year’s bill for climate-related disasters in New Zealand has already climbed to $174.7 million, according to the insurance industry. The Whakatāne District Council is currently applying to purchase 34 properties in Matatā, because it says they are at risk of debris flows in heavy downpours. When it comes to communities exposed to climate change, where does risk and responsibility lie?

Facilitated by Motu Economic and Public Policy Research, these dialogues aim to develop a shared understanding of key issues, to map current knowledge about them, to identify creative ideas to address them, and to pose well-formulated research questions. In this way, the dialogue process creates a more informed policy and research environment.

The dialogue process involves two full-day meetings, around six weeks apart, for 20 participants from industry, government, iwi, the research community and civil society. Motu aims to have a mix of expertise and a diversity of gender, age and culture in the room. Participants attend as individuals, rather than as representatives of their organisations.

Throughout the dialogue, participants prioritise up to six questions, which are publicised (in a closed request for proposal process) to involved or recommended researchers. We invite proposals of around $100,000 per question, and aim to fund two to three proposals per dialogue.

 

First dialogue: Insurance, coastal housing and climate adaptation (June 2017)

This dialogue was held in February-March 2017, and a report was published in June: Insurance, Coastal Housing and Climate Adaptation, led by Ilan Noy and Belinda Storey from Victoria University of Wellington. The report highlights how climate change may challenge our existing insurance arrangements and was covered widely by the media including by the NZ Herald, Newsroom and the Science Media Centre.

One of the key messages of the report is that New Zealanders should be aware, especially when purchasing property in “vulnerable” areas, that such properties may “become difficult to sell or insure. Homeowners could experience significant losses and displacement following a [single] disaster… or following a series of smaller events that accumulate to large losses.”

The first research proposals to emerge from the dialogue have been received and decisions will be announced shortly.

 

Second dialogue: Flood-prone communities and sea level rise

Managed retreat from coastal areas is already a political issue in Kāpiti, Dunedin, the West Coast and the Bay of Plenty. More generally, the experience of the red-zone in Christchurch has demonstrated the complexities involved with moving whole communities. Resolving those difficulties is critical to lessen the social and financial risks of managed retreat.

The dialogue meetings have been completed, with good representation from social science and civic society. Research questions have been formulated and distributed and we’re awaiting research proposals.

 

Third dialogue: Storm water & wastewater infrastructure

Water infrastructure is designed to last 50-100 years, so current decisions have ramifications for a future New Zealand, which will experience substantial sea-level rise. Stakeholders have explained that even relatively little sea-level rise could seriously handicap water infrastructure.

These dialogue meetings have been completed, with engineering and planning representatives strongly represented. Research questions have been formulated and distributed and we’re awaiting research proposals.

 

Fourth dialogue: Drought management

Drought is the chief climate impact raised by agricultural stakeholders. We’re currently planning this dialogue, and we’re looking at posing these kinds of questions: How can we better manage more frequent and more severe droughts? Could drought insurance be improved? What is the role of storage and irrigation? Can we develop more drought resistant cultivars and land uses? We aim to hold this dialogue before the end of 2017.

 

Fifth Dialogue: Urban and freight transport

Like water, our transport infrastructure is developed over long timeframes. We’re now planning this dialogue and aim to hold it before the end of 2017.

 

Future dialogues

Possible future dialogue topics (many of which have strong crossovers with the other National Science Challenges) include:

  • Climate change and biosecurity risks (pest management, food safety)
  • Climate change and health (heat waves, tropical diseases)
  • Drinking water (security and quality of supply in Auckland and in smaller communities
  • Opportunities (new land uses and economic activities)

 

Getting involved in future dialogues

  • Let us know if you’re a researcher or industry stakeholder and would like to participate in any of our upcoming dialogues. Note we have very limited capacity, but would love to hear from you.
  • Let us know if you want to be considered as a potential researcher in our closed request for proposal process. Note we can only invite very small number of researchers to submit, so candidates should be leaders in the field and possess the necessary research experience and skills.
  • Let us know if you have future Dialogue ideas.

Contact: Sally Owen, Motu Economic and Public Policy Research | sally.owen@motu.org.nz

Latest news and updates

Insurance: the canary in the coalmine of climate change?

The Deep South Challenge announces new research into who should bear the cost of our changing climate, and when.

All over New Zealand, from Haumoana to Westport, from Edgecumbe to the Kāpiti Coast, from Dunedin to Wellington City, homeowners and businesses are starting to feel the financial effects of climate change.

“Gaining traction on intractable issues”: An interview with Partnerships Director Susan Livengood

Susan Livengood is the Partnerships Director of the Deep South Challenge, and works within the Engagement programme – which tries to connect what’s happening in every programme of the challenge with both the broader public and with targeted individuals and organisations throughout New Zealand’s public and private sectors.