Dunedin city councillor Jinty MacTavish has blasted the
''complete absence of leadership'' from central government over
climate change, leaving ratepayers to face a possible $75
million bill to protect part of the city from sea level rise.
Her rebuke came as councillors at last week's planning and
regulatory committee meeting debated a report by consultant
Beca, outlining the threat posed by sea level rise to
Dunedin's harbourside and south city areas.
The report suggested measures including a network of pumps
and wells would be needed over the next century to protect
the area, which was home to 10,000 people and $4.3 billion
worth of infrastructure and property assets.
Pumps would be needed first, perhaps by 2040, and could cost
the city $10 million to install, while wells needed later, by
2090, could cost $65 million, initial estimates, which were
subject to change, suggested.
Cr John Bezett said the eventual cost of defending South
Dunedin had the potential to be ''an absolute disaster''
financially for the city, comparable to the Canterbury
He questioned whether councils should have to cover the cost,
or whether they should be borne at a national level, by the
likes of the Ministry for the Environment.
Council corporate policy team leader Maria Ioannou said that
remained a ''grey'' area.
However, it was hoped an investigation into climate change
adaptation, launched by the Parliamentary Commissioner for
the Environment, could address the issue, she said.
Cr MacTavish said the government was showing ''a complete
absence of leadership'' by leaving the issue to councils to
Protecting the city could be a costly exercise, particularly
for a ''financially constrained'' council like the DCC, she
''We need to be putting pressure on central government to be
better supporting its regions and its cities.
''It is an issue of national importance ... it's cross-party,
it's cross-generation, and of significant economic importance
and significant social importance for this country.''
The Beca report, prepared by Robert Crosbie, said the main
threat to the harbourside and south city area from sea-level
rise in the next 100 years would be from rising groundwater,
forced up by the rising sea level.
Groundwater in the area generally sat about 40cm below the
surface. Predictions were for the sea level to rise 30cm by
2040 and by 80cm to 1.6m by 2090.
Underground drains in lower-lying areas, pumping the
collected groundwater into stormwater systems, could address
a 30cm sea level rise.
When sea levels rose by 80cm, 70m-deep wells around the
perimeter of the area could intercept incoming groundwater
before it reached the aquifer and pushed the groundwater
levels up, the report said.
Mr Crosbie, addressing councillors at last week's committee
meeting, said the main message from what could be a ''highly
emotive'' issue was that South Dunedin could be protected.
Exactly when each intervention would be needed would depend
on symptoms showing themselves, such as more frequent
flooding in the area, he said.
''There's time to deal with this issue.''
Dunedin would not be alone. Other parts of New Zealand,
including eastern areas of Christchurch, were likely to
experience similar problems, he predicted.
However, it was already too late to try to mitigate climate
change and reduce the costs of adaptation to be faced in
South Dunedin, he suggested.
''Slowing down sea level rise has got a huge amount of
inertia,'' he said.
Councillors voted to continue the council's collaboration
with the Otago Regional Council on the issue.
They also agreed to consider a programme of work, and
necessary funding, needed for a more detailed investigation
of the area during next year's long-term plan hearing.
Cr Neville Peat, who was among councillors who spoke in
support of the work, said he was reassured the council was
already planning for climate change and that South Dunedin
could be defended.