Aussie Fires and Our Coastal Flooding – We Are Not Learning and Acting with Sufficient Urgency

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.

Kaiaua flooded farmland

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.

3 thoughts on “Aussie Fires and Our Coastal Flooding – We Are Not Learning and Acting with Sufficient Urgency

  1. Given that so many of the fires in Australia were deliberately lit i cant see how the situation can be attributed to climate change in any way what so ever.
    As someone who lived in Australia in the late 90’s into the 2000’s and used to love 4wding i was stunned that that the greens managed to prevent anyone from removing felled branches etc. from the parks, which would then sit and became fuel in the event of a fire. They also had all the fire trails closed so as to prevent anyone other than trampers having access to the bush preventing maintenance in the parks. The same zealots also protested any controlled burns whihc were carried out to minimise the risk of bush fires in the regions.
    Over the past couple of decades all the trails that were previously used to give access for firefighting have overgrown and there have been a couple of decades of trees falling and dropping branches providing a lovely layer of kindling should a spark ever land there.
    There are always dry periods over there and with the decades of kindling and leaf litter to which nature added the odd lightening strike, add a few deluded firestarters who lit some more and now much of the country is now ablaze.
    Its not climate change, its stupidity by people on multiple levels.


  2. Thanks for your continued flood prevention action, research, presentations, impressive work & now taking a stand & commitment as a councilor on the Waikato Regional Council. I wish you well & look forward to at least one local Council taking some action. I will be also doing as much as I can to impress on the TCDC that the Coromandel Peninsular is a unique place that needs urgent action to address the inevitable sea rise.
    Interesting that as noted by Attenborough last night on his latest TV programme (TV1), that 90% of the planets ice is around Antarctica which is melting at an alarming rate & all wildlife is being dramatically effected by it now – NZ is very close to that continent!


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