Govt sits on cli­mate warn­ings

Pro­tec­tion of coast from ris­ing seas has to start now, says min­istry.


A leaked gov­ern­ment re­port calls for im­me­di­ate ac­tion to help pro­tect thou­sands of peo­ple and $19 bil­lion worth of prop­erty at risk from in­creased flood­ing and coastal ero­sion.

The re­port, com­mis­sioned by the Min­istry for the En­vi­ron­ment, was de­liv­ered in April but has still not been of­fi­cially re­leased.

It con­cludes that $19b worth of build­ings, about 43,000 homes, 130,000 peo­ple, five air­ports, more than 2000 kilo­me­tres of road and 46km of rail­way face ‘‘higher lev­els of coastal risk ex­po­sure’’ as a con­se­quence of ris­ing sea lev­els.

‘‘Sea level will con­tinue to rise for at least sev­eral cen­turies, pos­ing an on­go­ing chal­lenge for man­ag­ing the tran­si­tion to more sus­tain­able coastal com­mu­ni­ties, both glob­ally and lo­cally,’’ the re­port states.

Plan­ning for adap­ta­tion at the coast had to start now and could not wait for un­cer­tainty about the im­pact of cli­mate change to be re­solved, it says.

It con­cludes that a mod­est sea level rise of about 40cm would mean that ‘‘present day, rare storm-tide’’ floods could oc­cur on av­er­age once a year.

The re­port was leaked to the Green Party this week. Co-leader James Shaw claimed the Gov­ern­ment was de­lib­er­ately keep­ing it se­cret.

‘‘This is an ex­tra­or­di­nary re­port. We need this in­for­ma­tion to be out there,’’ he said.

Penny Mad­den’s West Coast prop­erty has been flooded three times this year. The sea has been mov­ing closer to her home in Hec­tor for many years, eat­ing away at me­tres of shore­line. She wanted the Gov­ern­ment to help peo­ple af­fected by cli­mate change.

‘‘I am not sure there is a lot they can do, but fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance to help peo­ple re­lo­cate would be nice, but I can’t see that hap­pen­ing.

‘‘Bill English says that global warm­ing isn’t an is­sue in New Zealand, which is quite ironic. Peo­ple on the West Coast know it is an is­sue and have seen it for years.’’

A se­cond re­port on cli­mate change com­mis­sioned by the Gov­ern­ment will also not be re­leased un­til af­ter the elec­tion.

Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Paula Ben­nett has re­ceived the first re­port pro­duced by a work­ing group tasked last year with draw­ing up cli­mate change strate­gies for New Zealand.

The group con­sists of 10 ex­perts across science, academia, in­dus­try and gov­er­nance groups.

Ben­nett con­firmed she had re­ceived ‘‘ some early ad­vice’’ but the re­port would not be re­leased un­til it was com­plete, in March.

A spokesper­son for En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Nick Smith did not im­me­di­ately re­spond to calls for com­ment.

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