Yesterday was the two-year anniversary since the January 5, 2018 storm surge devastated Kaiaua, flooded scores of Thames homes and businesses and wiped out the Thames coast road. And, yesterday the skies over Thames have turned an eerie and ominous orange from the smoke blown across the ditch from the catastrophic Australian bushfires. Both events are attributable to dangerous climate change.
Two years on have we really learned anything at all about the climate emergency, and are we ready in Hauraki/Coromandel to take strong action on climate mitigation (reducing emissions) and adaptation? It’s a mixed bag.
A majority of TCDC Councillors and the Mayor refused to sign the Local Government New Zealand declaration on climate change. The Council has no climate action plan to reduce its own emissions or to show leadership on this issue. Comparisons with the Aussie’ governments response anyone?
Hauraki District Council has belatedly reacted to the devastation in Kaiaua by engaging highly experienced consultants to manage a coastal hazard/sealevel rise/climate action project. Some work has begun.
Community consultation has also begun and a Joint Working Party between the Hauraki Council, Waikato Regional Council (myself included as a WRC representative) and iwi has been established to oversee the project. The membership of a local community panel has also been finalised.
A researcher who has spent the last 10 years assessing the attitudes of TCDC to climate change adaptation has concluded in a recent paper that there are many barriers to effective local council adaptation action, chiefly (wilful?) ignorance and “short-termism”. The paper also concludes that few if any lessons have been learned from the damaging storm surge in January 2018 – two years ago. Risky coastal developments continue to be consented and plans to develop a coastal adaptation plan for sea level rise and coastal hazards are only just getting underway by TCDC.
The Australian government has been rightly pilloried in the last few weeks for its inaction on climate change while their country burns. What is happening in Australia is a portend of what New Zealand will face as temperatures rise.
Our slow and weak response to the 2018 storm surge suggests that we too are not learning the lessons that nature is providing.