Minister Refuses to Say When Guidance Will Be Released
It was very gratifying that David Fisher, senior reporter for the New Zealand Herald reported on the revelation in my previous blog about the early unintended release of Ministry for the Environment guidelines on sea level rise.
David Fisher is one of the best investigative journalists in New Zealand. He is an expert in the use of the Official Information Act, and when he obtains a document he is often willing to publish the full unedited version on the Herald website. This was the case here with the Herald publishing a full copy of the Ministry PowerPoint presentation I located, including the Ministry’s latest projections for sea level rise.
The Ministry guidance that any new development such as subdivisions or major infrastructure like roads must now be located higher than 1.9 m above current sea level was emphasised in the Herald article. And in its usual blunt and to the point style, No Right Turn blog also commented on how this new guidance will affect coastal property developers (and councils) all around the country.
The Herald Article had some comment from local Mayor Sandra Goudie. Sandra made some reasonable points about Central Government needing to provide much greater levels of funding if they expect local councils to get involved in issues such as the retreat and or relocation of whole communities. I had made exactly the same point in my presentation to the public meeting in Thames attended by local MP Scott Simpson. But those issues are still decades away.
But Sandra fudged the more immediate issues which are well within the capability of local and regional councils – and that is to get on with the job now of accurately identifying and mapping all coastal hazards – including coastal flooding. Local and regional councils have sufficient expertise and funding to do this work right now. Talk about the need for greater direction or funding from Central government in relation to these immediate issues is just avoidance and fudging. The NZCPS and now these latest Guidelines provide more than enough “direction.” It is time for action on hazard identification, not more excuses.
Other mainstream media haven’t as yet taken up the story – but then the fact that all new major habitable coastal development and infrastructure will have to be 1.9 m above sea level all around the New Zealand coast is not really news is it?
Eugenie Sage, Green MP took up the issue in Parliament yesterday and asked the Minister for Climate Change, Paula Bennett whether the new guidelines for local authorities would be released before the next election. The Minister was not willing to give any commitment as to when the Guidelines would be made public. Here is part of the exchange:-
EUGENIE SAGE (Green) to the Minister for Climate Change Issues: Will she release updated guidance before this year’s general election on the extent of sea-level rise which local authorities should plan for?
Hon PAULA BENNETT (Minister for Climate Change Issues): The Ministry for the Environment is still in the process of finalising its updated coastal hazards guidance for councils. It is important that it goes through a thorough process so that councils can make sound planning decisions, and, as such, I cannot yet give a date as to when it will be ready for release.
Eugenie Sage: Is it appropriate for councils to continue using 9-year-old Government guidance to respond to sea-level rise, given that this guidance massively underestimates how high sea levels are likely to rise?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: The member is making assumptions as to whether or not it is out of date. It is currently in date, and we will be working on that when it is ready.
Eugenie Sage: Is the real reason she has not released updated guidance to councils on sea-level rise this year that National does not want to tackle the hard issues in an election year and does not want to talk about the real impacts that climate change is having in New Zealand right now?
Hon PAULA BENNETT: No.