Sunday Star-Times

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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