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Climate Change on our doorsteps (literally)

Written By: - Date published: 2:08 pm, July 25th, 2016 - 89 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags: ,

A coastal storm in Wellington over the weekend has forced roads to be closed, washed away 4 meters of land in front of a house, taken out a 10 metre section of sea wall, and threatened a local fire station. This kind of damage in New Zealand from high tides and big waves is not new, but the frequency and number of events is increasing. However what stood out for me in this event was the vulnerability of the Plimmerton Fire Station. From the Stuff report,

In the Porirua suburb of Plimmerton, 10 metres of a seawall had been washed away and water was lapping at the doors of the Plimmerton Fire Station, which backs on to the beach.

Chief fire officer Carl Mills said it had been an exceptional storm.

The Porirua City Council had taken sandbags to the station, to protect its back doors from the encroaching ocean.

On Sunday evening council contractors placed 13 1.5 tonne concrete blocks between the sea and the station, to act as a temporary seawall.

Six months earlier there had been sand dunes around the back of the station, but those had all been eroded away, leaving the building exposed.

Mills said the last time the seawall had been compromised was during the June 2013 winter storm, but this time a bigger section was damaged.

He expected it would take at least six months for the damaged section of sea wall to be replaced.

It’s one thing to have to take a different route to work. It’s another when your local emergency services are put at risk from a simple storm. How often can the seawall be repaired? At what point do the repairs become uneconomical, or simply unviable with sea level rise? Shifting the fire service building is probably not too problematic, but there is other critical infrastructure where the solutions aren’t so simple. It’s time we were auditing all coastal areas for what is going to need to be moved, not in some hypothetical CC future, but soon. And we need to be having this discussion publicly, so that communities can be involved in the decisions that will be affecting their future in new ways.

South Dunedin is already having to deal with this, and it sounds like Wellington is up next. For both those cities and their local communities, climate change mitigation and adaptation should be a significant part of the up coming Local Government elections in the Spring.


Update: Please try and keep comments on topic i.e. about infrastructure and other risk in NZ from CC, what can be done about that, the role of councils, government and the people in that, related mitigation/adaptation issues etc. I’m happy for that to be broad but would prefer some attempt was made to relate to the post. We have lots of experience and perspective on CC amongst the Standard readers/commenters, let’s make good use of it. 



89 comments on “Climate Change on our doorsteps (literally)”

  1. Colonial Viper 1

    We need to make big changes to how local councils are funded and their scope of responsibility re: climate change.

    Hundreds of millions a year need to be spent on climate change resistant infrastructure and currently most councils are too cash strapped to do more than write reports about it.

    • Garibaldi 1.1

      We all know what these free market right wingers think of climate change hence it doesn’t figure on their list of priorities.

      • weka 1.1.1

        yep, probably best we don’t rely on them 😉

      • srylands 1.1.2

        Why are you conflating “right wing” and “free markets”? Markets represent the solution for effective climate change mitigation.

        For example, The Economist newspaper has long championed the severity and urgency of the climate change challenge. Yet the promotion of markets is the newspaper’s founding principle.


        “The worst risk is that a justified sense of accomplishment will engender a debilitating complacency. The Paris agreement drew on impressive reserves of diplomatic savoir faire and international solidarity. But if it is to live up to its promise, countries will have to make full use of the mechanisms for ratcheting up emissions cuts and accelerating adaptation for decades to come.”

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          People associate free market dogma with right wing belief systems for the same reason as racism and Climatology denial: because they are good predictors of one another.

          • In Vino

            Good point. I was going to ask Srylands if he even knew what Socialism means. It was the ridiculous outcomes of Capitalism based on the so-called ‘Free Market” that brought socialism into existence. Capitalism, however, dislikes its own consequences, and resorts to repression. Especially when it comes to Climate Change.
            Climate change is going to kill Capitalism. But the current Capitalists are unwittingly making it likely that we will all perish.

    • weka 1.2

      It would be interesting to see how that fits in with the changes to the Local Government Act from a few years ago. I had the feeling the emphasis was now meant to be on infrastructure.

      I had a quick look online for what NZ is doing, and there are definitely documents looking at the issue (haven’t had time to read through yet). But I think the conversation needs to be taken out into the general public.

      I see Little is in South Dunedin today. I’ll be interested to hear what he did, was there a public meeting for instance.

  2. BM 2

    Wellington is a stupid place to have the countries capital.
    If sea rise doesn’t root it, it’s only a matter of time before an earthquake takes it out.

    Move it to Hamilton, safest place in the country.

    Or at the very least move the civil defense headquarters.

    • b waghorn 2.1

      yeah that’ll solve climate change

      • BM 2.1.1

        Nothings going to solve climate change.

        Lots of change coming up so the first thing on the list of preparations would be to move your main government services out of harms way.

        • Robert Guyton

          Or better, set up the House on the sands of Oriental Parade so our politicians get a taste of the real world.

        • Colonial Viper

          Nothings going to solve climate change.


          We may be able to avoid 3 deg C climate change if we move really FAAAAST. But I can’t see it happening, particularly globally. We will cross 2 deg C globally by 2030, if not before. 4 deg C by 2050.

          Todays primary school kids will be around 40 years of age then, with their own young kids, facing a failing global habitat. Too bad for them.

          So mitigation and contingency planning is it. 2m sea level rise is coming. The only question is whether it is in 50 years or in 250 years.

          • marty mars

            Empty words are certainly not going to make any difference to how we manage the changes coming.

            I agree that vulnerable infrastructure needs to be moved. An audit is a good place to start – good idea.

            • Colonial Viper

              Re: empty words…listen out for any politician or group who talks about 2 deg C warming as being avoidable.

              They are lying through their teeth to us.

              • Bill

                No. It’s not that they would necessarily be lying through their teeth CV. But the basis of any such claim should be evaluated to see if it’s in the realm of reality or fantasy (eg – negative emissions). There is, according to Anderson, still an outside chance that we can avoid crashing through two degrees. And he doesn’t base his analysis on fantasy or wishful thinking…he simply does the numbers.

        • srylands

          That is not helpful.

          If by “can’t be solved” you mean ‘can’t be stopped’ then you are correct.

          However climate change can, and is being mitigated. The problem is that people are unwilling to change their behaviour commensurate with the problem. Governments reflect those preferences. For example we will keep on driving inefficient petrol powered vehicles while that is the most cost effective way to get from A to B. The Government could fix that by making petrol $3 per litre. if it did, would the Labour Party support it? No. They would say it is unfair on poor folk.

          And moving the capital from Wellington is just nuts. I hope you were kidding.

          • Garibaldi

            The mitigation you talk about is peanuts. Our attitude of economic growth at all costs has to stop as does our use of fossil fuels – ain’t going to happen is it? So brace yourselves for huge changes in the next couple of decades.

          • Bill

            Putting petrol up to $3 a litre wouldn’t really do much at all. You’re right that it wouldn’t be equitable – and our government committed to take action on climate change to hold temperature below 2 degrees based on equity (Copenhagen, Paris and others).

            $3 would put poorer people off the roads and probably lead to inflation or something. But besides that, it wouldn’t do jack in terms of bringing emissions down.

            The poorest 50% of people in society produce about 10% of society’s emissions.

            Both Chancel & Picketty and Oxfam ran independent studies on emissions by end user and both came to that same conclusion. (It essentially echoes ‘Pareto’s Rule’ that many suspected could be applied to emissions)

            If the world’s 10% of highest emitters (roughly correlating to the worlds richest 10%) reduced emissions to a European average, then global emissions would drop by about 30%.

            • Colonial Viper

              The true cost of carbon based fuels is not currently being represented at the price at the pump, nor in the products that we import.

              That needs to change.

              A carbon fee and citizens dividend system is not all of the answer, but it is part of the answer in shifting businesses and organisations off carbon based fuels.

              • weka

                I think the points being made here are good and useful, and I’m wondering it we could apply our knowledge and understanding to relate back to the post? It would be brilliant to apply the kind of critical thinking happening here to specific situations e.g. Wellington or South Dunedin. (I added a comment at the end of the post).

              • Bill

                There’s a camel over here would agree with you. Of course, when you actually look at that kind of price driven solution, it becomes really fucking clear that it. does. not. work. (And no, it’s not even a part of an answer – any more than bending your knees as you take a leap from a very high building would be any part of an answer to an impending problematic landing.)

                edit – sorry Weka. Just saw your note.

                • weka

                  No worries. It’s a conversation I’d like to see happen, but would prefer it in a post dedicated to that specific topic.

            • AmaKiwi

              Airlines are an elephant in the room.

              Out of thousands of flights me and my extended family have made, I can only think of ONE that was absolutely necessary. It was a medivac flight to a hospital to save my father-in-law’s life.

              I stopped flying several years ago on moral grounds.

              • Colonial Viper

                Professor Kevin Anderson, an outstanding climate change scientist and presenter, hasn’t flown by air for about a decade, for similar reasons.

                NZ should cut the total number of international and domestic flights by 10% a year over the next 5 years, and 5% a year after that.

                It’ll crash our tourism industry, but that’s going to go eventually anyway.

        • weka

          “Nothings going to solve climate change.”

          I’d like to know what you mean by that BM. As pointed out, there is a difference between preventing CC from happening at all (that ship has sailed a long time ago), and mitigating the CC that now exists. Which are you referring to?

          • BM

            I sort of view it along the same lines as CV.

            Climate change is like some massive ship that’s going to take centuries to turn and change course.

            It doesn’t matter what we do currently, the next what ever number of centuries are probably going to be quite hard going, once you get out that far into the future predicting or changing anything becomes rather futile.

            if there is an answer it’s going to be found some where in the future.

            In the here and now, It’s much better to prepare than try and stop.

            • weka

              I think CV believes it’s possible to mitigate, he just thinks we won’t do it because of politics and capitalism etc.

              The problem with your position is the potential and eventual likelihood of runaway climate change. That’s not ‘quite hard going’, it’s catastrophic. We still have time to prevent or lessen that. You also appear to think that CC is a set thing. It’s not, it’s a range of potential futures and we don’t know yet which ones are going to happen, and we still have some choices in which ones we get.

              In terms of NZ, runaway climate change would present us with problems far beyond having to move vital infrastructure because of sea level rise. So adaptation for places like Wellington and South Dunedin are important if we just look at the coastal impact of sea rise. But if we’re looking at gale force winds that take out forests and buildings, or droughts severe enough that we can’t grow enough food, where we have government will not be that high a priority. If we don’t mitigate, those kinds of things are inevitable.

              • Colonial Viper

                That’s not ‘quite hard going’, it’s catastrophic. We still have time to prevent or lessen that.

                Evidence that we still have time, please.

                A 50GT release of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost is possible at any time. Such a release could start at any time, and it may take just months to complete.

                Such a release would more than double the effective GHGs in the atmosphere.

                • weka

                  The answer is in your use of the word ‘could’. Please read the update at the end of the post, and take the rest of the discussion to OM. It’s off topic.

            • Bill

              if there is an answer it’s going to be found some where in the future.

              That’s incredibly wrong headed BM. It’s the CO2 that we’re expelling into the atmosphere today that’s the problem. And if the emissions of the here and now accumulate to (say) 4 degrees of warming, then no-one has the foggiest on how to adapt to that or prepare for that.

              Seriously. Go and look for peer reviewed studies on 4 degrees – you won’t find many. The problem with those temperature rises are kind of the same as your “100 years from now” problem – the permutations or possibilities are huge and largely unknown.

          • Colonial Viper

            Crisis level climate change killing tens of millions and displacing hundreds of millions of people is now unavoidable. There will be climate change wars and rebellions (Syria is the most recent but there will be more).

            Authoritarian military right wing rule in Europe will rise in response while drought throughout the United States will raise political temperatures in that country even further. Cities and towns throughout California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and various other states will be deserted. Tumbleweed.

            NZ will be flooded with climate refugees from the Asia Pacific. Hundreds of thousands of them.

            Meanwhile, I hope that a Lab/Gr NZ government will encourage more sales of hybrids and electric cars as well as building lots of car charging stations.

        • In Vino

          By the way, BM, Hamilton is not high enough above current sea-level. Unless you are curiously short-sighted and optimistic.

      • BM 2.2.1

        I remember that, I think they were housed in some of the less salubrious areas of Fairfield.

        Poor bastards

    • Rosie 2.3

      🙄 @ BM

    • Lloyd 2.4

      Earthquakes have caused Wellington to rise consistently over the last 10s of thousands of years.. Wellington may be one of the few sea-side capitals left after a few centuries and 60m of sea-level rise. Since much of Hamilton is only 40m above sea level Wellington’s hills might be a better long term bet than the central Waikato……..

  3. esoteric pineapples 3

    It’s only a matter of time before insurance companies stop insuring properties just above sea level. Like a metaphorical tsumani, there will be a few small waves first followed by a series of big ones. After that, every vulnerable property in New Zealand will only be valuable as a squat till it eventually gets swallowed by the sea.

    • weka 3.1

      yes although there might be a silver lining, which is that some properties will drop in market value but still be liveable in for quite some time, freeing up housing and making it more affordable. But year, people over committed financially will have particular challenges, and it will be interesting to see how NZ responds as a society to that. An EQC for CC? And at what point does it become realistic to say, hey we’ve known about CC for a long time, why did you think it was going to be ok? At what point will people be cut loose?

  4. adam 5

    Weka, may I suggest you put the same warning you put on a previous post. To easy for doom and gloom brigade to post otherwise.

    In other words – solutions people, not your take on a disaster movie.

    Me I think we need to walk around the country with a tape measure and anything important below 6 meters. Rebuild it higher. Then create infrastructure around it that can cope with high winds and big storms.

    • weka 5.1

      Thanks adam 🙂 I actually forgot all about the end note. I’ve added one now, and shifted a comment to OM. It would be good to get our thinking more on the specifics for NZ and what can be done.

      “Me I think we need to walk around the country with a tape measure and anything important below 6 meters. Rebuild it higher. Then create infrastructure around it that can cope with high winds and big storms.”

      Here’s a map that looks at various sea level rises in NZ starting with 10m.


    • Colonial Viper 5.2

      It will likely take 100-200 years for sea level rise to hit 6m.

      I think we set the level at 2m rise and move on. There are higher priority things to handle.

    • jcuknz 5.3

      I live around ten metres above current sea level so I’m safe …Yeah RIGHT …. always thought a beach front property would be nice. Apart from waves crashing over S.DN in a southerly. SIMT rail link will be metres under water. Both here and at Waitati etc.
      The Fly I T Oiontment .. access will only be by boat.
      Good News … I will be long dead before anything much of this happens.

      What amazes me is that the DCC has been approving new and rebuilds in South Dn for years with a water table just a couple of feet below it Max.. And often the new houses are built at ground level instead of say a couple of feet above to minimise insurance costs when the place floods … as I say not my problem BUT 🙂

      • adam 5.3.1

        Does anything the DCC or the ORC does amaze you anymore jcuknz?

        I mean they are on their own waka sailing to God knows where.

    • johnm 5.4

      Eric Rignot is Professor of Earth system science at the University of California, Irvine,[1] and principal scientist for the Radar Science and Engineering Section at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory

      He is a principal investigator on several NASA-funded projects to study the mass balance of the Greenland ice sheets and Antarctic ice sheets by using radar interferometry and other methods; the interactions of ice shelves with the ocean; and the dynamic retreat of Patagonian glaciers. In particular, Rignot’s primary research interests are glaciology, climate change, radar remote sensing, ice sheet numerical modeling, radar interferometry, radio echo sounding, and ice-ocean interactions. His research group focuses on understanding the interactions of ice and climate, ice sheet mass balance, ice-ocean interactions in Greenland and Antarctica, and current/future contributions of ice sheets to sea level change.[3]

      In 2007 he contributed to the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report WGI


    • Lloyd 5.5

      Why 6m? Once all the ice melts we can expect a 60m sea level rise.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      All year summer, awesome

      • jcuknz 6.1.1

        No frost to kill off the nasty bugs ….

        • adam

          We got the mossies back in Auckland. It still officially winter, so I’m thinking bumper crop of the filthy mongrels this summer.

          A tiger mossies (Aedes albopictushas) has sucked my blood already. Looks like it going to be the year of the blood suckers.

    • Rosie 6.2

      That’s nuts. I don’t find these temperatures curious. I find them alarming. We had 16 degree’s overnight in Wellington the other night. This time of year should be around the 5 degree mark.

  5. Bill 7

    In relation to the post, which seems to be focusing on coastal infrastructure, I guess the only answer is to look at the studies around how much sea level rise will be experienced in different parts of NZ.

    Personally, I’d add a fair degree of ‘precautionary principle’ to any figures because every time I read some update on CC, it’s always a case that things are projected to be much worse than previously held.

    When you’ve decided on the safety margin, look to a time scale you expect various sea levels rises to occur. Then look at the age of the infrastructure that could be affected and on the basis of its expected life span, decide whether to let it go or shift it.

    It would probably also be worth looking at the actual resilience of the infrastructure in question and then decide whether it gets retro-fitted or abandoned/replaced.

    eg – many south Dunedin houses could likely be moved (where to is a seperate question) But is it worth while moving them if they’re not built in a way that would be suitable for conditions likely to prevail before their life span is up? ie – could they be retro-fitted, or would it be better to replace them entirely?

    • weka 7.1

      re the last paragraph, true, and I think that many of those houses will be liveable in for quite some time to comes, so auditing for how to manage flooding and the costs of that vs moving would make sense. But the DCC should at this point not allow and more building in specific South Dunedin areas unless those buildings are removable. I think the preliminary work on which areas are affected has been done.

    • Sabine 7.2

      i would like to lay may hands on some of the scenarios Insurance companies look at when assesing future risks. I wonder if places like Mission bay, the North shore, Te Atatu Peninsula etc would still have the houses insured. If not, apply a full building stop in these areas.

      • weka 7.2.1

        We should also be looking at stopping building in places that will be more of a fire risk in the future.

        • Sabine

          emergency planning is a whole different level. And we are not prepared. Not at all.

  6. Pat 8

    Local Government Act, reports, insurance, flood risk…..these situations will and are being addressed to mitigate the problems of the future?

    now for the real world….
    “At a recent surveyors’ conference here in Christchurch, UN Margareta Wahlström, the head of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk reduction (UNISDR) singled out urban flooding as the greatest global risk to communities over coming years. This is very relevant to the Christchurch situation, where there has been significant land settlement and areas are now exposed to extreme flood risk. Despite this, CCC, EQC and Council are claiming that everything is fine and that buildings do not need to be lifted. Adrian reminded listeners that many New Zealand insurance policies (before the earthquakes) had no limit to the cost of reinstating buildings (no limit to the sum insured). Yet in the South Brighton area, almost no buildings have been raised to the 11.8 m, never mind the 12.3 m floor level. Of the properties in the South Brighton area that have been recently surveyed, and presumably rebuilt, almost every single one now has a hazard notice. This transfers the risk of flooding and erosion from insurers and Council to the homeowner. This is happening in Christchurch, which is ironically a member of the so-called “100 resilient cities” group.

    Council has also been holding what appear to be secret meetings with insurers and PMOs since the earthquakes. There has been absolutely no evidence of Council actively trying to help ratepayers.”




    • weka 8.1

      re the hazard notice, does that mean that those homes are now not insured for flooding?

      “Yet in the South Brighton area, almost no buildings have been raised to the 11.8 m, never mind the 12.3 m floor level.”

      Is that metres above sea level?

      • Pat 8.1.1

        hazard notice is recorded on title…it may impact insurance ( including EQC coverage) and resale.

        the FFL (finished floor level) measurements are taken from the city datum which is set from a historical point above sea level (in Littleton harbor I believe)

  7. Macro 9

    Meanwhile in Chch………
    How anyone can make any progress on this issue is beyond me.
    Those with vested interests will use any form of argybargy to obfuscate delay and deny the reality that they confront. Last night I watch the film Truth, a film about one of the most famous events in the history of American journalism, did not make the same impression. This is perhaps because, unlike Spotlight, Truth is a film about how the good guys lost. People don’t like that kind of movie as much. What’s more, not everyone agrees the good guys lost.. It reminded me of Orwell’s 1984, and the Ministry of Truth. Truth they say is stranger than fiction and so it proves to be. For the message is now being lost in a flurry of misinformation and denial. The past 14 months have seen the global temperatures for each month the highest they have been since 1880, the West Antarctic Ice shelf is poised to disintegrate along with Greenland, yet we still have the useful idiots posturing and running interference as hard as they can.
    I fear for the lives of my grandchildren. My kids may get by ok, but 50 – 60 (if not before) years from now, those around will curse us for our inaction and greed.

    • weka 9.1

      I hear ya Macro, it’s very hard to take. I think we are making progress though, despite the vested interests. Things are changing, and we need to be ready for when they start changing rapidly. I’m talking about in society, not in the natural world. I don’t look to the conventional authorities for the solutions on this, although I think they still need to be held to account in whatever ways we can. I think our best hope is when enough people are feeling the pressure to act. I don’t mean the general public, I mean the people of conscience. Thanks for the link.

      • In Vino 9.1.1

        ‘ I don’t mean the general public, I mean the people of conscience. Thanks for the link.’
        My fear is that people of conscience are a dying breed. I hope not – partly because I teach in a secondary school, and see so many wonderful youngsters.
        How do we promote people of conscience when MSM so consistently try to deaden that very type?

        • weka

          I see it happening on social media a lot. Not that I’m the biggest fan of that medium, but there are definitely people with social consciences doing work there. So I think there are definitely people with conscience. It’s how to get us taking the next steps in terms of action. Black Lives Matter is inspirational, we need to get to the point where not being active becomes intolerable or when we have more to lose if we don’t act.

  8. johnm 10

    Being practical! Weka 🙂 I can’t see anyway that seaside properties will not eventually be unsaleable. If I lived in one I’d sell it now before this reality becomes known by everyone.

    The problem is sea level will keep rising and rising for perhaps another 200 years. So building a seawall to protect our low lying city seafronts is a temporary measure.

    We don’t have the collective will but we should begin a measured year by year retreat from the coast to higher land, we need to begin now and keep onto it for decades.But in our atomised neoliberal order the funds and collective will to do this doesn’t exist we’ll leave it to the market as per usual. With a collective effort we could compensate homeowners losing their homes.

    • weka 10.1

      Agreed re sea walls and a staggered retreat. We won’t have a neoliberal government forever, and once people start to feel the pinch there will be more push for change.

      “With a collective effort we could compensate homeowners losing their homes.”

      I would guess that some people at least are covered by insurance (obvious exemptions explained by Pat above). At some point that will stop and I’m not sure how that situation can be resolved fairly. At what point can people be said to have engaged wilful ignorance?

    • johnm 10.2

      Scientists predict huge sea level rise even if we limit climate change

      Study of past sea level changes shows coastal communities may face rises of at least six metres even if we limit global warming to 2C, reports Climate Central

      Even if world manages to limit global warming to 2C — the target number for current climate negotiations — sea levels may still rise at least 6 meters (20 ft) above their current heights, radically reshaping the world’s coastline and affecting millions in the process.

      That finding comes from a new paper published on Thursday in Science that shows how high sea levels rose the last time carbon dioxide levels were this high.

      That was about 3m years ago, when the globe was about 3-5F warmer on average, the Arctic 14.4F warmer, megasharks swam the oceans, and sea levels stood at least 20 ft above their current heights.

      The megasharks aren’t coming back but those sea levels could be, no matter what happens in December’s climate summit in Paris.


    • jcuknz 10.3

      The retreat needs to not only be the flood areas but also the ‘safe’ houses on the foothills which currently have access by the flood plains. As I mentioned previously.

  9. AmaKiwi 11

    Does anyone know about agriculture and our (NZ) capacity to produce food under these scenarios?

    I have been told many staple crops cannot survive at projected higher temperatures. Usually the best arable land is adjacent to rivers which can be destroyed by salt water floods.

    Moving to higher ground won’t help if we can’t grow enough food.

    • weka 11.1

      Assuming we don’t get runaway climate change (which requires us to act radically in mitigation terms), I think in NZ we will be fine. Much of the mainstream commentary on food and CC is based on how the big, global, industrial food supply chains would fail. Monocropping grains and soy is some of the least resilient ways of growing food. We have many other options based on sustainable agriculture. In NZ there are people who’ve been doing the work growing in new ways and I think there are enough of them that those techniques could be shared and taken up pretty quickly.

      We also can relocalise food production. I find it helps to think about specific places (usually catchments) and see what food could be grown there if sustainable agriculture was used. So Dunedin would be fed predominantly from what could be grown in the city, on the Otago Peninsula and on the Taeri Plains. That looks doable, although I’m not sure how high above sea level the Taeri is.

      Drier, hotter places will be problematic (Central, Marlborough maybe), but much of that could be assisted by reforesting. People have lived successfully and grown food in much hotter places than NZ is likely to be. The issue will more likely be extreme weather events. Drought we can probably cope with. Big winds is another matter (and not one I’ve seen a lot of thought given to).

      • Colonial Viper 11.1.1

        So Dunedin would be fed predominantly from what could be grown in the city, on the Otago Peninsula and on the Taeri Plains. That looks doable, although I’m not sure how high above sea level the Taeri is.

        Dunedin will be fine. Auckland and to a lesser extent Wellington and Christchurch are…ahem…in less good shape. (I would have used that other phrase, but it’s not approved).

        The Taeri plains start to disappear at 2m sea level rise and will be effectively useless agriculturally at 3m-4m of sea level rise.

        • weka

          I don’t know the North Island very well, but Christchuch and the surrounding area could be transitioned to regenag and land restoration in the time we’ve got.

          “The Taeri plains start to disappear at 2m sea level rise and will be effectively useless agriculturally at 3m-4m of sea level rise.”

          So again, a fair amount of time to transition to what comes next. Once we stop thinking conventional agriculture and starting thinking of food growing designed around the landscape and climate it exists in, then it looks different.

          I don’t know about Auckland, but a huge amount of food can be grown in cities (half of all the food eaten in Havana, post peak oil, was grown in Havana, so the saying goes). All those inner suburbs that haven’t been infilled because rich people have resisted high density can be converted to food production 😈

          Of course we don’t know how much land is needed to feed 5 million people in NZ, that work does still need to be done.

          Here’s some financials from an urban farm in Quebec. It’s mostly focussed on the small business aspect, but it does say they’re feeding 200 families from 1.5 acres. Allowing for that not including protein etc, it does give an indication.


          • Colonial Viper

            These things could be done but unless 4% to 5% of farms are converted off conventional farming per year, every year, we won’t hit the run rate needed in time.

            That’s at least 500 full size (say 100 ha.) farms converted per year, in round numbers.

            First steps may be to cancel all farm debt, stop farms operating for international markets, and expropriate farm land back from foreign owners.

            Which political party is going to do this. Or even have these steps on their radar. (Rhetorical question).

            • weka

              I don’t know about that. I’ll have a look and see if the regenag people have looked at transition times, but I know that permaculture can convert pretty quickly.

              I think once it becomes more mainstream that not only will regenag feed us, it will reduce our GHG emissions, there will be much more interest, including politically. The big problem isn’t how to convert, but as you say how to get us past the idea that farming is for export and making money. That’s the killer because of the central role it plays in the economy.

              As for political parties, the first thing we need is to shift the culture away from dairying doing whatever the hell they like. Only one party with that seriously on their agenda. Plus the public are fed up with the situation too.

              • Colonial Viper

                You seem to think that radically converting hundreds of thousands of hectares of land from one use to another, and from one management philosophy to a completely different one, can be done “pretty quickly.”

                This suggests to me that you don’t have any experience in this field.

                • weka

                  We’re talking generalities here, and we haven’t defined the time period it would have to happen in. By pretty quickly I’m talking over a year or so. Annual food production more quickly. Food forestry much longer. That’s the actual getting the land functional stuff, not taking into account issues of economics, politics, ideology etc. So if we were having a medium paced global crash (think the pace of what Cuba went through), then I think NZ would be ok to produce food without big farma and that we could then transition to regenag.

                  If you are meaning it’s not technically possible in terms of the land, the internet is full of people proving that it is.

                  If you are meaning that the transition has to be done by people immersed in a culture that don’t understand sustainability and change, then I’d agree that’s a problem. But I also think that by and large NZers are adaptable, esp rural people. And many rural people are more open to doing right by the land than they are given credit for.

                  I have enough experience, both my own on a small scale, but also from knowing many people that are doing these things, and some on a large scale.

                  Amakiwi expressed concern about NZ’s ability to grow food as CC gets worse. But that stuff isn’t going to happen overnight, we have more time to transition the food supply than we do to get off FF.

                  But it’s late, and I’m still talking generalities. I just don’t think food production is one of NZ’s big challenges (politics are our main problem).

                  What’s your experience in the field?

                  • Colonial Viper

                    show me any internet example of where they have converted a significant intensive dairy farm (a few hundred or few thousand hectares) into the kind of new farming technique you are talking about.

                    Re: my experience in farm management science it is in geospatial land and rural land use analysis. What’s yours. Apart from reading the internet.

                    By the way our now massive dairy sector took two decades of full tilt land conversion costing billions of dollars. Thats the time and cost of major land use conversion.

  10. Jenny 12

    “If anyone asked me, I would say that dealing with the effects of climate change will become increasingly difficult and then, impossible.”

    “Off topic”, or stating a truth that others don’t want to face?

  11. johnm 13

    Paul Beckwith, climate scientist, has a formula to stop CC in its tracks. He calls it the three legged bar stool approach. My reaction it’s mission impossible.

    1. All CO2 emissions must stop virtually now! If they did our energy intensive civilisation would collapse.

    2. We must remove CO2 from the atmosphere any way possible.

    3. We must geoengineer, to cool it, the Arctic Icecap to stop its retreat to the point of a blue water event in September which would eventually lead to an ice free North Pole all year round. This would lead to massive methane releases as the Ice Age freezer which locked them all up in clathrates and frozen tundra vanishes. The combination of increased heat from no albedo and methane releases would probably mark the end of the World as we know it. Whether we’d survive this is another matter.

    Also http://www.paulbeckwith.net

  12. Rosie 14

    The council’s involvement and mitigation of the effects of climate change, such as sea level rises, AS WELL AS strategies to to reduce greenhouse gasses, in this neck of the woods has been pants, to put it mildly.

    I have banged a head against a brick wall till it bled trying to talk to council leaders in Wellington about their lack of action. Further up the thread is a discussion about air travel – why are we even flying everywhere when we know the damage this does? Get a train, catch a bus. It’s more enjoyable. Yet Wellington CC are dead set on building a airport runway extension out into the sea to take bigger planes, which no airline has yet to take any interest in. This is the Wellington council, with their 20th century thinking.

    It is the Porirua City Council that has the jurisdiction for the sea levels arounds Porirua Harbour, Pauatahunui Inlet and the Plimmerton coastline featured in weka’s post. I’m not sure how the Porirua CC works and what their veiws are on climate change.

    What I can say is what we witnessed at Plimmerton on Sunday was staggering. In a high wind and high tide you often get waves breaking over the sea wall and a bit of foam splash into gardens. Some residents have built new curved concrete barriers, which I an assuming will prepare them for a future of higher sea levels and greater storms. They would have been tested on Sunday. I watch tide times and usually drive out to watch wild weather depending on whether the conditions are right for ocean violence. What we saw on Sunday will become more normal we can all agree, but humans won’t be able to cope. I got some excellent video footage and put it on my fb page – look for Pacific Rosie on fb. Truly in all my years of knowing these coastlines I’d never seen anything like it. Sea water was actually flowing back out of front lawns and back on to the beach. On the way back the sea had submerged the decks of the floating houses on the Pauatahanui inlet.

    • weka 14.1

      Thanks Rosie, great to have reports from locals on the ground. Great idea to go out and witness what is happening in those storms (I love storms). I can’t see the video on your FB page though.

      • Rosie 14.1.1

        I think what you might be seeing is my public timeline. I am new to fb so am trying to navigate around. I have tried to set my actual timeline as the public timeline but it didn’t work………..thats ok, no biggie.

        Feel free to send a friend request if you like, if you’d like to see the two video’s. It really was violent.

  13. Sabine 15

    and another article here….


    i have friends in haumoana, they call it paradise.

  14. gsays 16

    Good post weka, perhaps the time has come for councils to say they will have nothing to do with sea rise damages.

    this would be a place for a conversation to start about the wider implications of climate change.

    keep up the good work.

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