Early this year, Climate Change Minister James Shaw warned ministers the Government did not have enough staff or funding to progress key parts of the climate change agenda - saying some policies would need to be dropped.
On the back of that meeting, Shaw wrote to Environment Minister David Parker in April saying that already-agreed Cabinet decisions "will not be able to progress as directed by Cabinet with this level of funding".
Despite securing additional funding in the 2021 Budget, Shaw had to work with Parker in June to "reprioritise" the climate change work programme to fit the Ministry for the Environment's (MfE) stretched staffing for climate change.
The letter, and its policy response, were released to the Herald under the Official Information Act.
The episode exemplifies a tension that has emerged across the public service as New Zealand forges ahead with its climate agenda: a lack of staff to create emissions-reduction policy advice.
This particular case only relates to the climate change work done at MfE, which looks after policy like planning, and publishing the Government's emissions plans.
Other ministries look after climate change policy in their own policy areas: the Ministry of Transport looks at ways to reduce emissions in transport, for example.
Shaw's Managed Retreat Bill appears to be the main victim of this staffing shortage.
The bill, which will look at ways of shifting settlements vulnerable to climate change, was set to be introduced soon - it's now not expected to be introduced before 2023.
The full list of policies being rescheduled and reprioritised was redacted, meaning the full extent of the effects of staffing shortages is unknown.
The heavily redacted letter, which Shaw forwarded to the Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern; Finance Minister, Grant Robertson; and Minister of Forestry, Stuart Nash, made the case that the Ministry for the Environment's climate policy time was chronically understaffed.
Shaw attached two charts to the letter to make his point.
One showed that the number of people working on climate change policy at the MfE last year was just over 80 (measured by full-time equivalent staff), and is not expected to rise in the next two years.
This is in fact a large increase on the number of climate change staff at MfE, which stood at just over 20 FTEs in 2014, 30 in 2015 (coincidentally the year the Paris Agreement was signed) and just over 40 the year the current government took office.
Funding for MfE's climate change work has also been a struggle. In 2014/14 the agency had $11 million for climate policy, growing to $11.3m the next year.
In 2017/18, the year the current government took office, the budget was $16.5m, and it currently stands at $25.2m.
A new Cabinet paper was drawn up in June on the "reprioritisation of the climate change work programme".
The details of what parts of the agenda have changed have not been made public.
There has been some frustration in Wellington that climate change policy has been under-resourced, leading to a lack of policy ideas for reducing emissions.
This was most apparent in the release of an early version of the Government's Emissions Reductions Plan - essentially a bible of emissions reduction policies that will help New Zealand meet its 2022-2025 emissions budget.
That document presented a raft of possible policies for the transport sector, but was light on policy ideas anywhere else, which has been cited as evidence agencies weren't equipped for the work.