Big climate risks to New Zealand’s transport sector considered in new report

02 Jul 2024
A future that includes worse congestion, isolated and stressed communities, flooded ports and disrupted airports has been considered as part of a new report into Aotearoa New Zealand’s transport system.

The report from The Aotearoa Circle and KPMG examines three different climate change scenarios, showing what could happen to Aotearoa’s transport networks if we fail to adapt to, or mitigate, the worst impacts of climate change.

It draws on the knowledge of a range of transport sector experts to look at the vulnerabilities of the sector and the opportunities to strengthen it.

Report co-author and KPMG Partner, Sustainable Value, Alec Tang, sees the process of drawing up these climate change scenarios as vital for taking tough decisions.

“These scenarios make us think. They challenge our assumptions and mindsets. They are for boards, executive teams, business leaders and sustainability professionals to use so they can start to plan and prepare for the disruption that will come either as a result of climate impacts, or the shift to lower carbon operating models.

“These scenarios are not predictions. Rather they explore different versions of what the future could hold for New Zealand’s transport sector,” he says.

To strengthen our efforts to fight climate change in preparation for a climate-impacted world that is radically different from today Alec says, “Suspend your disbelief. Challenge your assumptions and your mental models that have largely been shaped in a world that no longer exists.”

The Aotearoa Circle, which commissioned the report, has done similar climate change scenario work for other vital New Zealand sectors such as agriculture, tourism, and seafood.

CEO of The Aotearoa Circle, Vicki Watson says there were good reasons to focus on the transport sector.

“The transport sector is vital to New Zealand’s ability to function. We need it for our wellbeing, productivity, and sustainable prosperity – for community cohesion, for food distribution, and for the provision of other essential goods and services.”

Vicki acknowledges the most extreme scenarios can make scary reading but says there are many positives to take from the report.

“The best of the three scenarios can help us focus on what we can achieve if we are able to mitigate and adapt, sooner rather than later. The Circle is about elevating nature – using nature-based solutions along with innovation to help us build resilience into our infrastructure.

“This really comprehensive report is the product of a lot of deep thinking from experts in the transport sector and their engagement shows the degree of willingness to work together to front foot the opportunities to solve the problems we face.”

The report is available on The Aotearoa Circle website here. [link to be inserted once live]


  • Climate change scenarios are a tool for Climate Reporting Entities (those required by law to report on their climate impacts and dependencies) and others who are adhering to External Reporting Board (XRB) standards. They are defined by the XRB as “plausible, challenging descriptions of how the future may unfold. These descriptions are based on coherent and internally consistent sets of assumptions about the drivers of future physical and transition risk and opportunity.”
  • Instead of trying to predict the future, they paint broad pictures of how the future could plausibly look, and in doing so create a base for testing the resilience of the sector to climate change and to the challenges it could bring. These scenarios are not predictions – they are hypothetical futures.
  • The scenarios are not a roadmap for transition or adaptation for the sector. They are not intended as recommendations for action for any individual entity.
  • They are not policy recommendations for central, regional or local government, or for regulators, but can certainly inform them.
  • The projections are designed to be challenging, they are intended to be bold – they paint several possible pictures of a future impacted by climate change.