We’re already feeling the effects of a changing climate in the form of wetter winters, and hotter, drier and longer summers.

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We are likely to experience more frequent extreme weather events include rain, drought, wind and wildfires. Over time the Canterbury plains will be increasingly prone to drought and our low-lying coastal areas will be more exposed to flooding and sea level rise.

Risk assessments that identify the physical risks to different parts of the Christchurch district and to the Canterbury region have been undertaken, and work is underway with communities in our most vulnerable areas to explore our potential responses to these risks. 

The Christchurch District risk screening document [PDF, 2.6 MB] (external link)identifies how climate change will affect our natural and built environments. The document is based on the latest scientific information and input from key agencies in the region.


Temperatures and seasonality

  • Our average temperature will rise from 0.5°C to 1.5°C by 2040, and 3.0°C by 2090.
  • Our number of days over 25°C will increase:
    • 10+ more days over 25°C per year by 2040.
    • 20+ more days over 25°C per year by 2090 for Christchurch.
    • Up to 40 more days over 25°C per year in parts of Banks Peninsula.
  • Our number of frosts will decrease:
    • 10 fewer frosts per year by 2040.
    • 20 fewer frosts per year by 2090, and significantly fewer than this for inland areas.
  • Our seasonal temperature will change – particularly in autumn when summer will extend.

What this will mean:

  • Heat stress will affect the health of people, animals and plants.
  • Heating costs will decrease in winter, cooling costs will increase in summer.
  • Demand for drinking water will increase when water is likely to be scarcer.
  • The risk of wildfire will increase, especially in high winds and drought, when water is scarce for firefighting.
  • Water quality will deteriorate, made worse by increased water use for human activity.
  • Ecosystems will be under threat. Some species will become extinct.
  • Loss of biodiversity will impact mahinga kai and customary practices.
  • Current agriculture and horticulture will be at risk of new pests and diseases. Higher temperatures may allow different crops to be grown.
  • Summer leisure and tourism season will be extended, but the ski season will be shorter and glaciers will be disappearing.


  • Average rainfall will not change much, but summer and autumn will be drier with 5 to 15% less summer rainfall for Banks Peninsula.
  • Winters will be wetter - up to 10% more rainfall.
  • There will be long dry periods with more intense, more frequent drought and more frequent and more extreme rainfall events.

What this will mean:

  • Less water is available for drinking, irrigation, and agriculture during drought, especially on the Banks Peninsula. Average river flows may be 20% less by 2090.
  • Rivers will flood more often. More flash flooding of communities and businesses will affect people, the economy, and Ngāi Tahu cultural values and mahinga kai.
  • More frequent surface flooding. Flood water will damage bridges, roads and other infrastructure.
  • Insurance costs for homes and businesses may increase or become unavailable in areas most at risk. 
  • Parks and sports grounds will be affected by both drought and flooding.
  • Drought and fires will reduce vegetation on hills, increasing landslides and erosion during intense rainfall and strong winds. There could be permanent loss of soils in Banks Peninsula, preventing revegetation.
  • Increased erosion will lead to more sediment in waterways, reducing water quality and stream capacity. 
  • Indigenous ecosystems, plants and animals, will be under threat, especially during drought.

Sea level and coastal hazards

Sea levels

Levels are projected to rise over time: 

  • 0.3m by 2050.
  • 0.5m by 2075.
  • 1.0m by 2115.

Groundwater will be closer to the surface (more shallow).

There will be more frequent and intense flooding and erosion from storm surges.

Groundwater will become salty. Saltwater will move further upstream in rivers.

What this will mean:

  • More frequent, more severe coastal flooding will affect people’s health, wellbeing and the economy.
  • Saltwater getting into freshwater systems will reduce habitats.
  • Taonga species and mahinga kai will be lost.
  • Salty groundwater close to the surface will damage buried pipes and foundations of roads and buildings. It can result in cold, damp homes.
  • There could be long-term standing surface water, which may attract insects and exacerbate flooding issues.
  • Coastal erosion may lead to loss of road access to communities in Banks Peninsula.
  • Coastal and low-lying communities will need to adapt to sea level rise or relocate.
  • Our population may grow due to climate refugees from other countries.
  • Wāhi tapu, wāhi taonga and cultural landscapes may be adversely affected or lost.

The ocean and sea

  • The ocean will become more acidic.
  • Seawater will be warmer.
  • There will be marine heatwaves.

What this will mean:

  • Marine ecosystems will be altered, particularly affecting hard-shelled species.
  • Some species will become extinct.
  • Changes to the range of species, location and abundance of fish and seabirds around New Zealand will impact the food chain.
  • Aquaculture and fishing industries will be impacted.
  • Taonga species and mahinga kai will be lost.


Wind speeds may increase up to 5% by 2100.

What this will mean:

  • Trees, buildings and power lines will be damaged more frequently.
  • Fire risk will increase during hot, dry periods and soil will dry quicker, increasing demand for water supply.
  • Wind-powered electricity generation will be more viable.

Note: Predictions are comparisons to the 1986 to 2005 mean baseline and assume that greenhouse gas concentrations continue to increase at current rates based on the Representative Concentration Pathways scenarios.

Information is sourced from the NIWA report prepared for Environment Canterbury, Climate Change Projections for the Canterbury Region [PDF, 16.5MB](external link) published in February 2020.

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