Rising sea levels have been on our region’s radar for a while now, but Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne is calling on the Government to make planning a national priority.
“For several years now every New Zealand council with a coastline has been debating and discussing what a future response to the possible impacts of sea level rise could be,” says Richard. “There is no doubt there is a need for a nationally consistent solution to ensure everyone is treated fairly.”
Richard’s call out comes after the release of Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Jan Wright’s report, raising what has been until now a predominantly local issue to one of national importance.
“The Commissioner’s recommendation to establish a working group sooner rather than later is wise,” says Richard. “Waiting until the choices are limited and the need is imminent will inevitably place a greater level of burden on one group over another whereas with Government support there is a greater chance of a consensus-driven strategy being developed.”
Rising sea levels will continue to be an issue of the region due to the open and relatively soft structure of the Tasman coastlines.
“With the risks facing people’s homes and community infrastructure it is natural we want to protect those investments but how, at what cost, who pays? These are questions we need to discuss,” says Richard.
“Some people will say that if it is going to happen, sea level rise will be a long time in the future. However, we are making decisions and developing land today that will endure for a long time.”
“While the Council can, and has done, some planning locally I agree with the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment in that the Government needs to be involved in a wider conversation.”
“The Government itself has taxpayer interests in roads, schools, national parks in the areas exposed to the potential impacts of sea level rise and cannot stand aside.”
Richard says a national conversation about the issue needs to take place within the next few months, not years.
“It is not going to be solved overnight, but the sooner we sit down to identify the possible solutions the sooner we can come to an acceptable community response,” says Richard.