Released late last month, the report contains an Australasian chapter that says some people and businesses will be displaced, and people at highest risk are likely to be groups who are already vulnerable.
The need to factor equity into solutions is highlighted. So, too, is the value of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and tangata whenua Māori passing down knowledge about climate-change planning that promotes collective action and mutual support.
Debbie Wilson has been leading Ministry of Health policy work on health infrastructure, and agrees: “We won’t get anywhere without our indigenous knowledge, which aligns very much with a regenerative world view.”
Specialist GP Dermot Coffey, co-convenor of OraTaiao NZ Climate & Health Council, calls for elevating mātauranga Māori knowledge as climate-change mitigation and adaptation strategy is developed, and learning from Māori culture and practices to promote collective climate action.
In a media release, Dr Coffey points out the report stresses the need for “inclusive development choices that prioritise risk reduction, equity and justice”.
“One aspect of this is improving access to quality healthcare, including to mental health services and primary healthcare, particularly for marginalised groups, to make us more resilient to climate-change effects.”
Dr Wilson points out the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019 requires certain organisations, including government and local government, to assess their climate risks. A ministry team – now based at the interim Health New Zealand – is exploring a range of climate hazards at key health sites.
Overall, it is estimated that $25.5 billion of New Zealand assets would be exposed by a 1m sea-level rise by the year 2100.
Speaking personally, Dr Wilson says there is a lack of clear messaging to the public on changes they can make, adding: “Health practitioners are perfectly placed to educate and lead on this.”
She would like to see medical schools train students on the impacts of climate change and the value of educating patients.
“To foster community resilience, we need to talk about this.”