Government has agreed on the Terms of Reference for the Cyclone Gabrielle Recovery Taskforce. The Taskforce’s primary purpose will be to advise the Minister for Cyclone Recovery on what is required for recovery efforts and to improve resilience in the future, based on what is happening ‘on the ground’. 

The Taskforce will be an interface between regional groups, iwi, Ministers and central government. The initial focus will be on the immediate recovery, including whether or not some devastated areas should be rebuilt. The work being undertaken by the taskforce will cover all regions affected by the January and February floods, and the cyclone.

The Taskforce will advise ministers on the prioritisation and sequencing of needs for each region and provide assurance that those needs are being met. Membership of the Taskforce will include representatives from business, local government, iwi and unions. Expert sub-groups are also being established for insurance and banking, utilities and telecommunications, and infrastructure, construction and roading.

Cyclone Recovery Minister Grant Robertson has said that “Part of the Taskforce’s work will cover issues to do with managed retreat, as well as other adaptation and resilience issues. Climate resilience will be a core objective of the recovery”.

The Government has strongly emphasised that there will be a local-led recovery from the impacts of Cyclone Gabrielle and the Auckland flooding. This means we do not expect to see an agency such as the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority set up. But Crown coordination and support is essential, and we welcome the role of the taskforce as a means for this local voice to be heard in central decision-making.

Given the extension damage to infrastructure across parts of the North Island, particularly State Highways and local road networks, it’s likely that new mechanisms will come into play to enable reinstatement of this infrastructure that is both timely but cognisant of the impact of future weather events and the resilience of the network in the face of climate change. We expect to see emergency legislation similar to that following the Kaikoura Earthquake in 2016 to provide for this.

We are very supportive of climate resilience being a core objective for the recovery. We must pause to consider how we incorporate resilience into the recovery, rather than going straight to rebuilding like-for-like and repeating our past mistakes. There is no avoiding the ‘wicked problem’ of managed retreat in the face of the devastation that has occurred, and the much-anticipated Climate Adaptation Bill needs to make the most of the current momentum. Planners have a crucial role in ensuring resilience is part of recovery, and in shepherding communities through difficult conversations about what a lower risk and more resilient future might look like. The Climate Adaptation Bill needs to give us the tools we need to get on and do this.

The government has also referenced the response of the state and federal governments in Australia following the Queensland Floods in 2010. Amongst other actions, the Queensland Recovery Authority Developed a guideline Planning for stronger, more resilient floodplains. This guideline includes an in-depth analysis of existing river systems and mapping of flood risk areas to guide future development. This may be a course of action considered for Tāmaki Makaurau in future and is an example of what natural hazards and climate change direction in the National Planning Framework, and a national spatial plan as requested in NZPI’s RM Reform submission, could include.

The Terms of Reference agreed by caucus for the Cyclone Gabrielle Recovery Taskforce can be found here: Cyclone Gabrielle Taskforce.pdf (