Landscape over the plains with southern alps in the background

Climate change is one of the most pressing issues faced by central and local governments worldwide. It is internationally accepted that the climate is changing due to the increase in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – with changes observed at global and regional levels. For more information about research and work being done across Canterbury and what you can do, you can visit It's Time, Canterbury.

In Selwyn, research shows [PDF, 9972 KB] by 2050:

  • Temperatures may be 1.3°C warmer on average compared with the 20 years since 1998. There will be also be fewer frost days and an increase in the number of days with a maximum temperature over 25°C.
  • Although we’re not expecting much change to rainfall on the plains, there could be a 5% increase in alpine rainfall, and an increase of between 4-12% in extreme rainfall events.
  • Sea levels could rise by up to 0.28 metres by 2050, resulting in the Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere mouth needing to be opened more frequently and an increase in lake levels.
  • Rising sea levels and more severe weather events are likely to lead to more flooding around the coast, as well as more severe flooding inland.

The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research’s projections for Canterbury [PDF, 16.5MB] indicate significant changes in rainfall patterns, increased evapotranspiration and rising sea levels affecting infrastructure close to the coast by 2090.

Climate change may bring challenges to our way of living, but may also provide opportunities that come through a warmer climate.

A recent report from the Ministry for the Environment highlights climate changes already observed in many people’s lifetime.

Selwyn District Council was one of the earliest signatories to the New Zealand Local Government Leaders’ Climate Change Declaration 2017. As a signatory, the Council is committed to developing and implementing plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, to engage with tangata whenua, and to support resilience within our local communities.

This requires long-term planning to allow for changes in behaviour and infrastructure locations. We recognise that we make decisions that span generations – so we must actively assess and respond to the risks and opportunities that climate change presents.

Along with other agencies, we also work to improve the resource efficiency and health of homes, businesses and infrastructure in our district, and help communities to understand and prepare for the physical impacts of climate change.

What’s the Council doing about climate change?

Assessing our risk

  • We’re working with our regional partners in the Canterbury Climate Change Working Group and the Mayoral Forum Climate Change Steering Group on reports identifying risks, opportunities and adaptation work [PDF, 1.8MB] already under way across the region. Priority risks identified in Canterbury include sea-level rise, flooding, coastal erosion, fire, higher temperatures, drought, and storms.
  • We've done an initial assessment of flooding hazards in coastal and low-lying parts of the district, using computer-based flood modelling to predict the extent and depth of flooding. This allows us to prepare for this flooding, showing where we need to focus our flood protections and steps that can be taken.
  • We also completed an assessment of climate change impacts on water assets in 2017 and 2020, looking at trends in climate change data and the potential impacts on Selwyn’s water infrastructure.

Planning our response

Within the Council, we've formed an expert group to examine climate change-related opportunities and risks, and develop an adaptation action plan that will feed into planning processes.

With our regional partners, we’re planning more detailed risk assessments, and developing cross-sector plans for adaptation to climate change. We will identify a short list of prioritised risks based on existing management actions and urgency. This will feed into a comprehensive adaptation strategy.

Putting climate change at the heart of decision-making

In 2020 we took a further step to put climate change at the heart of our work, adopting our first formal climate change policy [PDF, 125 KB]. This brings together several areas of work into a consolidated blueprint for action on climate change, and commits the Council to make climate change mitigation and adaptation central to its planning and decision-making.

Measuring our own carbon footprint

As part of our leadership role in addressing climate change locally, we undertake annual assessments of our organisational carbon emissions. These assessments help identify opportunities to reduce emissions in our own operations and those of our contractors and inform investment proposals that can be incorporated into future long-term and annual plans.

The initial assessment was completed for the 2018/19 year [PDF, 299 KB]. Establishing this baseline is the first crucial step towards meeting our obligations under the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019, targeting net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Subsequent assessments for 2019/20 and 2020/21 [PDF, 1528 KB] have recently been completed and broadly mirror the findings from the baseline year.

The assessment findings show the Council’s biggest emissions continue to come from its main contracted services; wastewater treatment, rubbish and recycling collections and disposal, and roads and parks maintenance. These made up 71 percent of the Council’s annual emissions in 2020/21. Diesel is the most significant contributor (45%), followed by electricity (27%) and the methane and nitrous oxide emissions from wastewater (22%).

We will continue to monitor our emissions, and will set reduction targets as part of our own climate action commitments and through collaboration at a regional level.

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and adapting to our changing climate through:


Our flood modelling allows us to identify where flooding is most likely in the district and take steps to prepare. Our work includes improvements to the stormwater network to increase catchments, flood defences and rules in the Proposed District Plan. This will help ensure houses built in flood-prone areas are protected for flooding up to a one in 200-year flood event.

Major flood protection projects under way are the Leeston Stormwater Flood bypass and Hororātā flood protection work, improving drainage in the township, building a new drainage channel south of Hororātā this year (2021) and clearing debris from the Hororātā River, Cordys Stream and Happy Jacks Creek to improve flows and reduce spillover in heavy rain events, while protecting ecological and biodiversity values.


The Pines Resource Recovery Centre Reconnect project is underway aimed at getting people thinking differently about waste materials, showcasing recovery of materials from the waste stream, and alternative options to landfill. The project includes more space for recycling and reusables, and plans for a reuse shop, salvage material yard and education centre.

As part of the master plan for the expansion of the Pines Waste Water Treatment over the next 30 years, we're looking into ways to turn it from an energy-using plant to an energy neutral plant that would produce resources and generate its own power.


Our transport strategies are focussed on helping people move to low carbon emission transport options, including promoting public transport, building cycle and walkways and supporting the installation of charging stations for electronic vehicles. In the past year we worked with Orion and Charge Net to install EV charging stations in Lincoln, Leeston, Dunsandel, Springfield, Castle Hill and Arthur’s Pass.

We’re also adding new electric and hybrid cars to our Council fleet, with four new hybrids on the way this year and plans for two electric cars by the end of the year.

We work with Environment Canterbury and the Greater Christchurch Partnership on strategies for public transport and planning our future growth to ensure good access to low carbon emission transport options.

Natural environment

The Council administers the Selwyn Natural Environment Fund, to encourage and assist landowners to identify, protect, restore and enhance areas of natural biodiversity.

The District Plan puts in place rules to protect biodiversity and the natural environment in Selwyn, including identifying and protecting significant natural areas.


The Council is increasingly looking to reduce our carbon footprint from Council buildings, right from the start of construction.

The Selwyn Sports Centre has been built with solar panels that will provide up to 80 per cent of its power use in summer and with innovative Kingspan cladding that reduces the need for additional insulation.

Te Ara Ātea, the anchor building of the new Rolleston Town Centre, has been built to a high environmental standard.

Wherever possible locally sourced sustainable materials have been used in the construction and all the timber in the building has been sustainably sourced.

The building is also built to reduce energy use in lighting, heating and cooling to reach the standards of a green star rated building.