Sea-level on the rise - time to plan for it

  • David Parker
Climate Change Issues

The latest science highlights the need for local bodies to plan for changes in coastal hazards resulting from climate change, Climate Change Minister David Parker told the Second Australasian Hazards Management Conference at Te Papa in Wellington today.

Two climate change reports released by the Ministry for the Environment today provide guidance for local government on how to consider hazards such as storm surge and high waves, along with specific advice on sea level rise.

“This advice recommends local bodies plan for a base sea level rise of half a metre within the next 100 years, but should also consider the consequences of mean sea-level rise of over 0.8m for the same time period,” David Parker said.

The sea-level rise planning guidance in Coastal Hazards and Climate Change: A guidance manual for local government in New Zealand is based on the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Fourth Assessment Report. However, it also considers the potential consequences of higher sea-level brought about by factors not included in current global climate models.

“Climate change effects are gradual, but many land-use planning decisions have long-term implications because of the longer-life of infrastructure such as buildings or roads. As a result it is not only wise to consider climate change implications in coastal planning, it is a requirement under the Resource Management Act.”

A high proportion of New Zealand’s urban development has evolved in coastal areas. Some of this development has been located in areas which are vulnerable to coastal erosion and flooding, David Parker says.

“The world’s scientists are telling us that climate change is already happening, therefore a planned response is required if we are to prosper in the face of climate change.”

As well as the guidance manual, the Ministry has just released a 30-page overview of the technical report Climate Change Effects and Impacts Assessment (2nd ed.) released in May 2008. Preparing for Climate Change highlights the most up-to-date projections on how New Zealand’s climate will change in the future.

It provides an overview to help local government identify and quantify opportunities and risks that climate change poses. It also demonstrates how to incorporate climate change into local government regulatory, assessment and planning processes.

Both the Manual and the summary released by the Ministry are based on scientific information provided by the National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and the 4th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The Australasian Hazards Management Conference provides a forum to discuss the integration of hazard information into effective risk management.