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Future impacts

What impacts will climate change have in Northland?

Climate change will increasingly disrupt Northland’s water, land, ecosystems, people and economy.

In 2016, we commissioned a report from NIWA on how climate change may affect Northland over the coming century (there’s a link to the summary report at the bottom of this page). In terms of numbers, the potential impacts NIWA talked about included:

  • an increase in annual average temperature: up to 1.25°C in most seasons by 2040, and more than 3.25°C of warming projected for summer by 2090
  • an increase in the number of ‘hot days’ (days >25°C) each year, from 25 days now to 90 days by 2090, for Northland as a whole
  • an increase in drought frequency, duration and intensity: the risk of this is highest on the east and west coasts, and southern inland areas
  • up to 10% less spring rainfall for some areas by 2040, growing to up to 20% for eastern areas by 2090
  • more intense storms and rainfall events.

While climate change will alter our physical environment in these and other ways, the consequences of those changes will affect our communities, cultural taonga and natural ecosystems. Here’s how climate change could change our lives, in a bit more detail.

People
  • Rising average temperatures, summer heatwaves and air pollution levels will affect human health. People with chronic respiratory conditions, the elderly and other vulnerable populations are particularly at risk.
  • More droughts, floods and storms – which Northland experienced particularly harshly in 2020 – create significant economic and social issues for communities and whānau.
  • Rising sea levels affect coastal settlements, of which Te Taitokerau has many, and increase the risk of coastal hazards and erosion.
  • We have heard from Māori that climate change impacts have the potential to create an existential threat to their cultural taonga and values.
Agriculture
  • Climate change will affect what and how much we can grow and farm in Northland, due to higher temperatures, dry spells and unpredictable weather.
  • More frequent droughts will limit pasture and animal production, and increase the risk of fires. Reductions in rainfall and river flow, as well as sea-level rise, may reduce groundwater storage.
  • Intense storms and rainfall events will happen more often, causing damage to land and crops.
  • More heat-tolerant pests may become established here, affecting Northland’s primary industries.
  • There are also some potential opportunities, such as the ability to grow new crops.
Water health
  • Lower levels of groundwater in aquifers and lower flows in rivers.
  • A high risk that salt water will enter coastal aquifers due to sea level rise.
  • Heavy rain events could cause more soil erosion, increasing sediment in our waterways.
Native biodiversity
  • Climate change can alter the spread of existing pests, and create the potential for new pests (especially plants, insects and marine pests) to gain a foothold in Te Taitokerau.
  • It could also have detrimental effects on our native plants and animals, potentially causing localised extinctions.

Shifting to a net-zero emissions society

The scale of change required to limit dangerous global warming will require significant shifts in the energy we use, how and where we plan our communities, and how we operate businesses. The economic, cultural and societal upheavals of such a shift will have consequences for Northlanders – particularly for Māori, rural landowners, farmers, manufacturers, and those with limited financial resources.

Council is committed to working with organisations and communities to help reduce emissions, and support an equitable transition to a net-zero emissions society.