Officials’ long struggle to publish new sea level guidance

Ever wondered what happened behind the scenes during the 364 days National delayed releasing vital new guidance on rising sea levels? Here, Eloise Gibson pieces together the political hesitation and officials' fight for action.

Documents released to Newsroom under the Official Information Act describe an almost farcical series of false starts. Many dates were penciled-in for the launch and then abandoned as it became clear – sometimes only a week or so beforehand – that ministers would not support the plan.

“Our position has always been that no ministerial approval is needed to publish the guidance,” the Ministry for Environment climate change director said. “The previous Minister for climate change [Tim Groser] agreed to this and the idea of Cabinet approval has not been raised in response to any previous briefing.”

In the end the consultation proposal never made it to Cabinet under Smith and Bennett, and a change in government handed the task to the new, Labour-led Government. Climate Change Minister James Shaw published the guidance this month (December 2017).

It’s too soon to say what effect the guide will have on coastal building, or what other guidelines will come out. For now, it’s fair to assume that ministry officials are simply glad to be rid of it. For almost a year, they thought publication was imminent. When it wasn’t, their explanations to councils and the media grew increasingly vague.

Click on the image to read the full story from Newsroom.

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