Our Research

Climate change impacts

Motu's research in this area aims to generate new knowledge about the potential impacts of climate change and variability on New Zealand’s environment, including our natural ecosystems and native species, and the impacts on the many productive activities which depend on the environment and enable continued growth and prosperity.

Motu also conducted work under the Deep South National Science Challenge. The mission of this project is to enable New Zealanders to adapt, manage risk, and thrive in a changing climate. The Impacts and Implication Programme aims to understand the potential impacts and implications of climate change for New Zealand to support planning and decision-making, and aid adaptation efforts. 

Motu’s recent focus examined the impacts of climate change and adaptation to those impacts, in particular:

  • The science of how New Zealanders manage risk, adapt and thrive in a changing climate
  • A series of facilitated dialogues where scientists and stakeholders identify research questions relevant to important decisions in New Zealand society.

These dialogues included:

  1. Climate risk, housing and insurance: How can insurance inform and ameliorate climate risk for coastal property?
  2. How can wastewater and storm-water infrastructure be most effectively adapted, or abandoned, in the face of gradual sea-level rise?
  3. Vulnerable communities and sea level rise: What techniques will be the most effective for identifying those at risk and their relative vulnerability? How do we build a shared understanding of the likely impacts of sea level rise, enable effective community engagement in co-designing their future, and build social resilience for transition? What are the roles of local and central government.
  4. How can we better manage increasingly frequent and severe droughts: Where are the vulnerable areas and land uses? What existing strategies could be used more intensively and what new approaches might be explored? Could drought insurance be improved? What is the role of storage and irrigation? Can we develop more drought resistant cultivars and land uses.
  5. Urban and freight transport infrastructure, floods and sea-level rise.


Communities and climate change: Vulnerability to rising seas and more frequent flooding

Authors: Sally Owen | Suzi Kerr | Janet Stephenson | Caroline Orchiston | Wendy Saunders | Alex MacMillan | Leigh McKenzie | Maria Bartlett | Jonathan Boston | Christopher Brankin | Stephanie Clare | Nicholas Craddock-Henry | Bruce Glavovic | Shonagh Kenderdine | Molly Kennedy | Ryan Paulik | Rata Rodgers | Sharon Torstonson | Scott Willis


Sea creeps up, storms surge.    
Wet feet look to higher land    
but pause, loving home.

Many communities and iwi in coastal and flood-prone locations face an uncertain future because of climate change, with rising sea levels…

Climate change adaptation within New Zealand’s transport system

Authors: Ben Davies | Angela Halliday | Lesley Haines | Suzi Kerr | Graeme Guthrie | Anthony Byett | Ryan Paulik | Roger Blakeley | Chris Bowie | Roger Fairclough | Darren Fidler | Warren Furner | Andrew James | Richard Levy | Barry McColl | Richard Meade | Petra Pearce | Joanna Pohatu | Stephen Riley | James Tinnion-Morgan | Ilze Ziedins


Climate change threatens    
our transport system. We need    
clear rules and signals.    

Love cars and hate trains? Love trains and hate planes? Love your bike but rely on trucks, trains, ships or planes to get…