Scientists say a landmark report shows New Zealand is under-prepared for climate change.
The report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says this country can expect floods, droughts, wildfires and storm surges to be more severe and more frequent as the planet warms.
It says adaptation planning in New Zealand is piecemeal, and planning for sea-level rise in particular is often challenged in the courts.
Local Government New Zealand president Lawrence Yule says Parliament needs to set national directives and timelines for climate change adaptation.
"Without any central government directive it is quite difficult for councils to do what effectively might be the right thing for the future, but is seen as being too aggressive for the people of the present."
But Climate Change Minister Tim Groser favours setting general guidelines.
"We still think it's better to give generalised approaches and let local communities work through that process within their own democratic frameworks."
Mr Groser says central government will also inform ratepayers of the risks of not adapting to climate change.
However, a climate change expert says it is not enough for the Government to leave it to local authorities. Judy Lawrence, an adjunct research associate at Victoria University, says policymakers are not integrating climate change considerations into their decisions.
Ms Lawrence says while local government is doing a good job of sharing information, more work is needed on what is at risk nationally.