Warning to plan now for sea level rise – Expert reaction

Press Release – Science Media Centre

A report from the Ministry for the Environment has warned that New Zealand lacks a coordinated plan to deal with future climate change.Warning to plan now for sea level rise
– Expert reaction
15 December 2017

A report from the Ministry for the Environment has warned that New Zealand lacks a coordinated plan to deal with future climate change.

The Coastal Hazards and Climate Change guidance is a major revision to the 2008 edition and was published alongside a stocktake report from the Climate Change Adaptation Technical Working Group.

The SMC asked an expert to comment on the report. Please feel free to use these comments in your reporting.
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Belinda Storey, Principal Investigator, Deep South National Science Challenge, comments:
“This is an excellent piece of work. A key change from the 2008 guidance is the introduction of a new approach to decision making. Under climate change, there are many things that you can no longer take for granted like the maximum water level at high tide. In addition to sea level rise, climate change will bring storms that we as a nation have never experienced.

“The coastal guidance draws on an approach to decision making developed in the Netherlands called Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways. The beauty of the Dynamic Adaptive Policy Pathways is that it encourages public decision-makers to make choices today that they are least likely to regret later. Choices that leave future decision-makers with at least a few good options.

“At a minimum, we need to be thinking how we can avoid creating even more assets that are going to be stranded by sea level rise and increased storminess.

“One thing that the report is unlikely to resolve however is the ability of local governments to pay for these decisions. Implementation of the report’s recommendations will inevitability involve trade-offs between private property owners’ rights and the interests of the wider community, including ratepayers and beach visitors who not are directly impacted by sea level rise.

“Adapting to sea level rise is going to be expensive. Who pays for adaptation and how the costs of sea level rise are distributed across our communities is something we’re only just starting to seriously examine.

“Local governments don’t have the resources to fully address these issues. These issues are going to require either a material increase in rates and/or central government intervention to ensure fair and equitable outcomes for everyone who lives, works and plays on our coast.”

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