New Zealand an 'innovation lab' for climate change

Monday, 11 March, 2019

New Zealand an 'innovation lab' for climate change

New Zealand has the opportunity to be a climate change ‘innovation lab’ for the rest of the world according to international planning expert and former United States political candidate Sue Minter.

Minter is a keynote speaker at the upcoming New Zealand Planning Institute’s (NZPI) Weaving the Strands conference to be held on 2–5 April in Napier. Her experience as a planner in post-apartheid South Africa, state transportation leader, disaster recovery chief and US democratic candidate is expected to be a major drawcard for the conference’s 600 delegates.

As Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Transportation in 2015, Minter co-chaired a subcommittee on President Obama’s White House Council on Climate Preparedness and Resilience, a national initiative that brought together leaders throughout the United States to build national and local strategies for climate resilience.

“New Zealand is a respected global leader that can be an innovation lab for the rest of the world in addressing climate change in a forward-thinking way,” Minter said.

“Climate change is a global threat that knows no boundaries. Lessons learned in one country must be shared and applied elsewhere. This includes best practices around resilient design, disaster recovery and adaptation.”

Minter explained that local authorities and citizens need to be proactive. “Identifying risk factors and ameliorating them where possible pays big dividends. Preparing social and governmental structures and ensuring that climate change is always considered in any community and building design is key,” she said.

Minter’s comments correspond with new research into climate change and environmental degradation. Rising seas, increasing temperatures and extreme weather events are said to be reaching unprecedented levels.

A recent study led by prominent New Zealand climate scientist Dr Jim Salinger revealed that the summer of 2017/18 was the warmest in 150 years. Temperatures were on average two degrees higher, leading to significant ice loss in South-Island glaciers, the death of farmed salmon in the Marlborough Sounds and unusually early grape harvests in the Marlborough wine region. Dr Salinger’s study suggests that such conditions may be typical of the average New Zealand summer climate by 2100.

Other notable keynote speakers at Weaving the Strands include Environment Minister David Parker, Minister for Maori Development and Local Government and Associate Minister for the Environment Nanaia Mahuta, Waikato University Demography Professor Tahu Kukutai, renowned designer and sustainability champion David Trubridge, and Director General of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme Kosi Latu.

Minister Parker will discuss the government’s resource management program and provide updates on specific aspects of the urban work program, quality intensification, the Housing and Urban Development Authority and versatile soils. Minister Mahuta will address the rapid decline of New Zealand’s indigenous biodiversity.

The conference is expected to attract industry leaders, iwi, resource managers, urban designers, scientists, environmental advocates and local and central government representatives.

For more information on speakers at the conference, visit

Image courtesy of NZPI Conference 2019.

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