Councillor takes govt to task on rising sea

Jinty MacTavish
Jinty MacTavish
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 earthquakes.

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 address.

Protecting the city could be a costly exercise, particularly for a ''financially constrained'' council like the DCC, she said.

''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.

It's wise to plan ahead

Its prudent of the local government to plan for the most likely rises, not what a blogger says he thinks it is. Hopefully future governments will come up with national strategies, rather than leaving it to local homeowners, ratepayers, or the leaders the DCC will still have then (e.g. Cr MacTavish).

There seems to be a remakable lack of concern for small regions that may have to deal with these costs.


South Dunedin safe

South Dunedin is safe from sea-level rize, but not from DCC politicians. The changes proposed by the global-warming catastrophists will mean that there will be no new building in some areas and other restrictions, like no solid fences allowed between properties.

The rate of sea level rise has been established by a global network of tide gauges, which includes Port Chalmers. Over the planet the average sea-level rise is 1.7mm/year. This is quite modest and should be of no concern; it amounts to 129mm by the year 2090. So how is it that the DCC believes that by 2090 the sea will have risen by 1600mm (1.6m)? My guess is that this extremely exaggerated rate of sea-level rize (21.1mm/year) has been created to scare people - people like small children, journalists and the residents of South Dunedin.

An important point for our feeble minded DCC councilors to consider is that Dunedin is rising gradually (uplift), and so for Dunedin, the sea-level rise is even lower that the 1.7mm/year global average. Decisions need to be based on the actual local measurements, not an extremely exaggerated global average figure.

Another important point is that the sea-level data shows that there is no accelerating trend and no discernible human influence. Because of this, I think that it is reasonable to expect that the modest rate of 1.7mm/year will continue unchanged for the next few hundred years.

Jinty saves the world

At least in her imagination, Jinty saves the world. It's a shame that they are imaginary threats. Unfortunately for Dunedin renters and ratepayers the DCC has chosen to promote this imaginary exaggerated sea-level rise as being a real threat. The DCC has already started spending our money on this stuff and will continue until we get some new councilors that can put aside the chicken-little paranoia and the Agenda 21 (aka Sustainable Development, LA21 etc) scare-tactics.

It is clear to me that Cr MacTavish isn't the only true believer in this global warming politics/religion. Global Warming Fear-mongering seems to be the official policy of the Greater Dunedin group of DCC politicians; this includes Jinty, Dave Cull and Kate Wilson. While these people seem deluded and genuinely think they are saving the world (including South Dunedin), the rest of us should be deciding if our money should be wasted on ritual sacrifices to imaginary threats.

Whose figures, and how were they calculated?

"Predictions were for the sea level to rise 30cm by 2040 and by 80cm to 1.6m by 2090," and this is the reason for Ms MacTavish's agitation. According to dunedinBlogAl, "Actual measurements of Dunedin sea-level rise show no significant increase from the long-term rate of 1.7 mm per year." If that is true, by 2040 the rise would be 41.4mm, in other words 4.14cm.

If the prediction on which Ms MacTavish and Mr Peat base their concern is taken, the rise is 11.54mm (1.154cm) per year. There is a big difference between these figures, one apparently based on real-life observations, the other on - ? Computer modelling, or what? Before council commits us to more emotion-based spending please let us, the people whose money is directly involved, see evidence this time. I'm tired of their habit of embarking on big spends based on dubious reasoning.

Stand up, DCC

It is clearly a local government issue which the DCC needs to deal with. It's not even particularly expensive at $75 million over 76 years. That's less than 2% of the value of the area spread over three quarters of a century. Alternatively just leave it to sink. People have a whole generation to adapt. 

Eyes wide closed

The ostrich of doubt with its head in the sand in Sth Dunedin is drowning.

More scaremongering

The way Councillor MacTavish and other Greens speaks, is as if we're going to get a sudden tidal wave of water hitting our shores. When in truth, any rise in seawater levels is going to be minimal over a very long period of time.

Let's not forget New Zealand was once a continent called Zealandia (Tasmantis) which was larger than Greenland or India, where seawater water levels have been rising for millions of years, due to natural climate change.

I suggest Jinty stops hitting the panic button at every opportunity or find another job. 

Don't worry Jinty.....

I wouldn't worry yourself about having to protect those in South Dunedin against flooding, after all at the rate businesses are folding and exiting Dunedin the council will only have themselves to protect.

How green can it be, protecting man made structures from the natural environment. Tsk, Tsk Jinty.

Sea-level rise not accelerating

Stop panicking. Actual measurements of Dunedin sea-level rise show no significant increase from the long-term rate of 1.7 mm per year. At this rate, it will take hundreds of years to reach the levels the the Council is worried about.

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