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Hey Ho and Up She Rises

The Climate Blog

Hey Ho and Up She Rises- Sea level in NZ rising twice as fast as predicted

Waikato District Council acknowledges the climate crisis we are facing globally and understands the importance of acting fast to address this. Council has developed actions to support New Zealand’s climate change commitments, as well as international priorities. Our current Climate Response and Resilience Action Plan will be further developed to include a Climate Strategy. The strategy will roadmap our targets, projects and actions to deliver our commitment to reduce greenhouse gases by 50% by 2030. 

Following scientific modelling released last week by NZ SeaRise, it is predicted that parts of New Zealand will have a much higher and faster sea rise than anticipated, which could cause impact ‘once-in-a-century’ flooding every year. The predicted 30cm sea level rise in 18 years in Wellington alone is a major cause for concern given our sea level increases between 1993-2016 were approximately 7.8cm total within a 23 year timeframe. 

The modelling has emanated from dozens of local and international scientists, which also includes GNS Science and Niwa. Combined data shows where land mass is sinking (3-4mm per annum) with the latest international sea-level rise projections.  The new information will have consequences for climate adaptation planning, insurance, infrastructure and property prices. 

Scientists have agreed that global warming needs to be kept to 1.5 degrees to avoid irreversible damage, but current estimates put as at a 2-3 degree increase in the next few decades.  Rising temperatures, sea level increases, glaciers melting and the ocean volume expansion are contributing rapidly to the climate crisis we are facing.

As C02 and other greenhouse gases increase, they trap the sun’s rays and heat up the planet. This has contributed to the warmest 10 years globally being recorded during the past 15 years. The current rise in C02 is at least 300 times faster than the combined effect of natural processes over the last ten thousand years. We need to take actions now.

Climate change underpins all of the work and projects we deliver at Council; therefore, it is imperative for us to upskill and educate our staff to better understand how each role interacts with climate change. Council is developing a weighting and assessment framework to make decisions with a climate change lens for projects and works, and we are upgrading our fleet to include more hybrid vehicles and scoping the inclusion of electric vehicles.  We are also tracking our carbon emitting activities and setting targets for reduction.

We have formed a Climate Steering Committee led by Deputy-Mayor Aksel Bech and General Manager of Community Growth, Clive Morgan. The Steering Committee will work alongside the climate action and advisory group to deliver on climate action projects and targets. 

Sustainability will feature as a part of our procurement strategy for Council, and we are currently working with other stakeholders to develop a Climate Response Programme in the community later this year.  

We are doing our best at Waikato District Council to understand the impacts our work has on the environment, and we are making meaningful changes to support our climate response goals. 

We encourage our ratepayers and customers to do your part in addressing climate change.  Physical steps that can be taken to reduce flooding include tree planting and channelling and wetlands, other options to contend with climate change include planting drought resistant species, mixed crops, and wetlands, planning for sea level rise and an increase in storms and drought. We always encourage conserving water, not just during the summer periods, and encourage installation of rainwater tanks. 

For more tips and ideas for reducing your impact and living more sustainably at home and in the workplace, refer to our Climate Action webpage where you can download free resources.

From a national planning and consents perspective, the Resource Management Act (RMA) is being repealed this year, and will be replaced by three Acts that support climate action:  

  • Natural and Built Environments Act (NBA) to provide for land use and environmental regulation (this would be the primary replacement for the RMA) 
  • Strategic Planning Act (SPA) to integrate with other legislation relevant to development, and require long-term regional spatial strategies 
  • Climate Change Adaptation Act (CAA) to address complex issues associated with managed retreat and funding and financing adaptation.  

Please see links for more information:  

Searise NZ – Maps of rising sea levels