Storm damage highlights need for Govt action on rising seas

Massive coastal inundation in Kapiti and Waitara this weekend is yet another reminder to the Government that it has a responsibility to address the problem of rising sea levels caused by climate change, the Green Party said today.

High tides and stormy weather caused significant damage to sea defences and roads around Kapiti this weekend, and threatened exposed coastal properties in the Taranaki town of Waitara. Residents and councils in both areas have struggled to agree on how to address the growing risk of rising sea levels and coastal erosion.

“There is no clear strategy from central government on how to assist low-lying coastal areas that are threatened by rising sea levels. The people who live in those communties are being left on their own to deal with the problem,” said Green Party environment spokesperson Eugenie Sage.

“We know that sea level rise is happening right now. Thousands of homes, roads, and other local infrastructure are potentially at risk over the coming decades from coastal erosion and storm surges.

“New Zealanders can't afford for the National Government to keep its head in the sand about the real impacts of climate change.

“The Government needs to provide councils with clear national direction, guidance and resources on how to respond to rising seas as this becomes an even bigger issue into the future.

“Both Christchurch and Kapiti councils have tried to address the issue, but a lack of robust evidence and guidance from central government meant their efforts went nowhere. Dunedin City Council has been left to deal with the challenges in South Dunedin on its own.

“The Government should be leading a national discussion on how councils, local communities, and stakeholders such as the insurance industry can prepare and respond to rising seas and a changing world and how central government can best assist.   

We need more co-ordinated and extensive mapping of low lying areas and more investment in natural hazards research to better understand, predict and respond to the likely impacts of rising seas such as coastal erosion and rising water tables," said Ms Sage.

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