Safe harbours, closed borders? New Zealand legal and policy responses to climate displacement in the South Pacific
It is expected that by the mid-late century, large numbers of people facing increased environmental, economic and other pressures associated with climate change will respond by leaving their homes and communities to relocate elsewhere. Low-lying island states in the South Pacific such as Tuvalu and Kiribati are commonly cited as nations expected to be in the vanguard of a wave of climate-related migration. With existing strong cultural and economic ties with other South Pacific nations, it would be natural to expect New Zealand’s support role to flow into proactive planning, and legal and policy provision for responding to the effects of climate change in the Pacific. To an extent, this expectation has been met, however New Zealand’s position on the more contentious aspect of climate change adaptation within the Pacific: whether, and to what extent, New Zealand would be willing to open its borders to climate change-displaced persons in the region less clear. It is concluded that to date, despite rhetorical support for its Pacific neighbours, the New Zealand government has not actively engaged with legal, policy or practical implications of likely significant future flows of climate change-related migration to its shores.