Subtropical diseases, heatstroke, fires and flooding are all on the cards in future thanks to climate change - and the Ministry of Health wants to make sure New Zealand is ready.
The ministry has announced it is working on a nationwide Heat Health Plan to help district health boards and community service providers prepare for hotter summers and the health problems they could cause.
"Climate change means summer temperatures are expected to rise across both the North and South Island, increasing the risk of heat stress and subtropical diseases," Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter said.
"We all know intense heat is a big challenge for people already suffering health conditions, especially the elderly, people with disabilities and chronic disease."
Details on what the plan might involve are still scarce, but Genter told the Herald it could be "broadly" similar to heat health plans from Australia, such as this one from Victoria.
Victoria's plan details the public health response to periods of extreme heat, including public education strategies, how vulnerable people will be taken care of during heatwaves, and how different health organisations will co-ordinate during emergencies.
"Australia have a lot more experience in dealing with heatwaves so we should learn from them about the best way for our health system to support people," Genter said.
The announcement comes days after a woman with multiple sclerosis died in Christchurch from hyperthermia as the city's temperature soared to 32C.
These are potentially big challenges for the health sector and I want to make sure it is ready to tackle them
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Genter said while New Zealand and the world were taking action to limit climate change, some of the temperature rise was already locked in, and the Government had a responsibility to prepare.
"Climate change is also likely to result in more droughts, wildfires, floods and infectious disease across the country. These are potentially big challenges for the health sector and I want to make sure it is ready to tackle them," Genter said.
Some DHBs and councils face different threats such as drought, so would need their own response plans, but the Ministry would provide guidance, she said.
Genter said DHBs were not in line for more funding specifically for heat planning, but the health system had been "significantly underfunded" and that was going to change.
"The Ministry of Health needs to do a lot more to prepare our health system for the realities of climate change," she said.
"That is why as Associate Minister for Health I have a new responsibility for dealing with health and climate change. The Heat Health Plan is one part of a much larger response from our health system."