TDC to focus on climate change risks

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 11:21 20/02/2014

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Raising awareness about climate change hazards and the risks the district's communities will accept are two streams of work being undertaken by Tasman District Council.

About 50 people gathered in Motueka's Memorial Hall last Thursday for a presentation by environmental information manager Rob Smith.

Outside the meeting Rob said the council, and its communities, already faced many of the hazards - such as flooding, salt water intrusion, surface water and erosion - which would only become more extreme and frequent with climate change.

The aim was to build community resilience through helping residents identify the risks, understand their impacts and consider what adaptations could be made.

The council was already taking the risks of climate change into consideration when building its infrastructure, and communities were seeing planning changes in relation to restricted subdivision in low-lying coastal areas and increased building platform heights, he said.

Rob said there was evidence from local readings taken over the past 100 years of sea level and temperature rises.

"We are experiencing it now, but it will be come more frequent. However if we plan for it we will be more resilient."

He said the council was asked to make the presentation by the Motueka Community Board, but the meeting's location was pertinent given the town's risk exposure.

Rob said Motueka was one of Tasman's major settlements but was low-lying and faced a number of hazards, although flooding was probably the greatest risk.

Community board member David Ogilvie said it was becoming increasingly urgent that the town's residents started talking about the risks of climate change.

Motueka's sandspit provided the best coastal hazard protection, but needed to be protected as well.

He questioned why the council had deferred work on the Motueka River's stopbanks in light of the flooding risks from climate change, and said the discussion also highlighted the need to carefully plan the town's drainage system, which could be compromised with sea level rise.

He said the lack of local, regional or even national climate change information meant councils, like Tasman, had to rely on reports from the International Panel of Climate Change.

"As a community we need to know more about climate change and, more importantly, we need to act on the information we get. It has to be tackled with urgency," David said.

As part of the council's climate change, work policy planner Maxine Day was starting a two-year project working with communities to understand the risks they would be prepared to accept and would canvas the Motueka community as part of her work.

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