Local Help From New Government On Sea Level Rise

We Qualify For Help – Now We Just Have to Ask For It

There is much to be excited about following the announcement of a Labour, New Zealand First, Green Government.  Especially regarding climate change policy.  All three parties have a strong commitment to reduce emissions and provide leadership and funding for local adaption to climate change and rising seas.  It seems likely that Green Party Leader James Shaw will be Climate Change Minister.

Anyone following this blog will know that it has focused on how local communities must begin to adapt to climate change and sea level rise.  This is why I’m really excited about the opportunities the change in government will provide for Thames-Coromandel communities.  With a new Government, we now can look forward to strong direction, guidance and financial assistance from central government on climate change adaption planning.  But we have to be willing and ready to ask for that assistance.

The Labour Party has a comprehensive Climate Change Adaption Policy program. This is the introductory summary:-

“Adapting to a changing climate

Even with meaningful climate action, there are still some unavoidable consequences of climate change that we need to adapt to, especially inundation and flooding risks. The impacts can be lessened with forethought, good information, and careful planning. But leaving the adaptation burden entirely to local authorities would result in piecemeal planning and decision-making

Central government has the capacity to assess which regions face the greatest or most urgent risks, to provide reliable and up-to-date information for local authorities to take into account in their infrastructure and planning decisions, and to lay out the range of options available to help communities adapt to changing climate.”

Note the commitment to ensure that the adaption burden is not left entirely to local authorities. This was precisely the problem under the previous National Government.  There was no direction or guidance – – throughout their entire 9-year term they failed to update the 2008 guidance document for local authorities, and even withheld the latest draft guidance until after the election.  Councils were left to fend for themselves. The result has been piecemeal planning and decision-making locally, and TCDC is years behind other coastal councils. 

These are some of the specific adaption policies which Labour have promised to implement:-

“Labour will:

Ensure high-quality central government direction and guidance on sea level rise and other consequences of changing climate, so that a consistent approach is taken throughout the country, albeit adapted to local circumstances”

Note the emphasis on “direction” as well as guidance.  This direction from central government is sorely needed because small councils such as Thames Coromandel have really struggled to understand and implement the (outdated) guidance that was available.  This blog has highlighted several cases where the Council simply ignored the guidance and went ahead with infrastructure projects or gave consent to resource consents on low-lying at-risk coastal land.  TCDC desperately needs direction.

“ Lead a climate change adaptation management plan in close cooperation with local government, the agriculture, fisheries and forestry sectors, Māori and other stakeholders”

A government-led climate change adaption management plan which is developed in cooperation with all relevant sectors is a very welcome step forward

“ Provide a fund to enable local and regional bodies to collaborate in researching, prioritising, and planning mitigation of extreme weather effects resulting from new weather patterns caused by climate change”

The plea from our own Mayor Sandra Goudie “show me the money honey” has been answered with this policy.  Now, we just have to get our local act together and push for a fair slice of the assistance pie.

“ Commence an urban redevelopment and adaptation programme, with a focus on South Dunedin and other urban communities subject to sea level rise – working with those communities, their local authorities and other stakeholders”

This is the policy which provides the greatest opportunity for our District.  With low lying parts of Thames, Whitianga, Coromandel, Tairua and other coastal communities all at high risk from sea level rise, the development of an urban redevelopment and adaption program is precisely the sort of assistance from central government we need.

We must seize these new opportunities.  Our Mayor, Chief Executive, Councillors and our local MP Scott Simpson, and our communities must take advantage of the new direction from central government and all must work together to ensure that our at-risk communities have their voices heard in Wellington.  We hear a lot about the risks to low lying South Dunedin, but our level of risk is just as great, and possibly even more serious. Thames is one of most at risk urban areas in New Zealand from sea level rise. It will be a travesty if we don’t seize this opportunity.