New coastal hazards report reveals inconvenient truths the National-led Government is hiding about climate change

A draft Ministry for the Environment (MfE) report on climate change, shows a grim picture for low-lying coastal areas in New Zealand.

A draft Ministry for the Environment (MfE) report on climate change, shows a grim picture for low-lying coastal areas in New Zealand.

The MfE “Coastal Hazards and Climate Change; Guidance For Local Government” report has been formatted for publication and has a publication date of April 2017 but has yet to be released by Environment Minister, Nick Smith.

Green Party leader, James Shaw, is criticising the National-led Government’s failure to release the report to help councils, communities and government agencies plan for rising seas.

The most recent MfE guidance on coastal hazard issues and rising seas dates from 2008. 

The public deserves to have more up to date analysis and information.  It’s not a question of if homes and businesses are going to face disruption from rising seas, but of how bad the effects are likely to be, and what strategies and changes we need to plan and adapt to that.

“It seems that there are inconvenient truths in this new report, which the Government would rather not talk about in the lead-up to the election,” says Mr Shaw.

“This 284 page document makes disturbing reading and National seems determined to hide it so it can continue to avoid real action to reduce climate pollution and real action to deal with its consequences; such as rising seas.

Mr Shaw says the report warns that sea level rise of 30cm to 40cm (possibly reached by 2050–2060) will convert a present-day, rare storm-tide inundation event into an event that will occur on average once a year.

The report also warns that sea level rise will exacerbate and increase the frequency of coastal erosion and inundation and create risks not previously experienced; for example, ground liquefaction risk.

And the analysis identifies that Canterbury has by far the highest number of people and homes at risk from sea level rise through climate change, followed by Hawke’s Bay.

The report estimates that property and infrastructure lying 1.5m above the high water spring mark would face ‘higher levels of coastal risk exposure’.

And it estimates risk exposure in those low lying areas would affect:

  • 133,000 people (resident population)
  • 43,680 residential buildings
  • 5 airports
  • More than 2000kms of road
  • 46kms of railway

It puts replacement costs for buildings in coastal areas lying 1.5m below high water spring mark at $19 billion.

“Bill English, as Finance Minister, has previously dismissed the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment’s findings on the impact and cost of coastal risks from climate change as ‘speculative’.

“But this report clearly shows that the risks are real and that planning for adaptation needs to start now,” says Mr Shaw

The Green Party is also concerned that the National Government is refusing to release another report, which has been completed by a Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group.

The Carbon News website has been asking for the Technical Working Group’s report, but Climate Change Minister, Paula Bennett, says she won’t release it because she wants to “maintain the constitutional conventions which protect the confidentiality of advice tendered by officials.”

“The National-led Government should allow New Zealanders to examine and discuss information like that contained in the two new expert reports, rather than suppressing the information because it might be politically inconvenient to release it before the election.

“New Zealanders need the most up-to-date facts to be better prepared for the changes we’re facing,” says Mr Shaw.

Note:

NIWA research in 2015 estimated that if a climate change sea level danger zone was doubled to 3.0m below the high water spring mark, total replacement costs for buildings alone would be $52 billion.

Those estimates were based on 2011 building costs.

Links to the Report:

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