Climate change

Councils reflect on the costs of climate change as a whole in Waikato

Coastal flooding on the Coromandel Peninsula last year - long term coastal protection costs could be high.

Thames-Coromandel District Council

Coastal flooding on the Coromandel Peninsula last year – long term coastal protection costs could be high.

Calculating the long-term costs of climate change for the Waikato is a bit like guessing the proverbial length of a very elongated piece of string.

But, although no rough estimate of the costs has yet been made on a regional basis, a new report suggests that they could be a very heavy burden on taxpayers and other funders.

Information prepared for the Waikato Regional Council’s Climate Action Committee this week indicates that there is a potential price tag of $1.1 billion through 2120 for coastal defense works at eight key Coromandel sites.

The figure, the result of a ‘very high level feasibility assessment’ of ‘coastal defense options’, was produced as part of a Coastal Management Plan (SMP) project for Thames District Council -Coromandel.

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A report to the committee, by Regional Resilience Council team leader Rick Liefting, says not all options are likely to be implemented.

But, he said, “the feasibility study provides [an] indication of the challenge facing the district”.

The SMP project does not end until July, but “Thames-Coromandel District Council, Waikato Regional Council and the communities of the Thames Coromandel now have a very good understanding of the risks associated with current and future hazards along of the coast and where a deeper understanding is needed,” said Lifting.

“The implementation phase will likely be a long-term process (decades) as the conversation about managing the impacts of predicted climate change will continue.”

In a second report for the meeting, Scientific Director Dr Mike Scarsbrook briefs councilors on a summary of climate change projections for the region, which he says is already experiencing some effects.

Context of the roadmap for climate action provided to Thing by the council said: “More frequent and increasingly extreme storms, increased rainfall and rising tides will test our coastal communities, infrastructure, roads, rail and communications networks. Our native animals and plants will become increasingly vulnerable, particularly if the rates of change are faster than they can adapt.

Scarsbrook’s latest report states: “Model predictions indicate an increase in air temperatures across the region, with ‘middle of the road’ projections indicating around 1°C by 2050 and 1.5°C by 2090.

“There is little evidence of significant changes in regional-scale annual average precipitation, but extreme precipitation is likely to increase and drought intensity is also likely to increase.”

Cattle in North Waikato - drought intensity in the area is expected to increase due to climate change.

Dominico Zapata / Stuff

Cattle in North Waikato – drought intensity in the area is expected to increase due to climate change.

Facelift says Thing general figures on climate change costs for the whole region are not yet available.

As part of a regional resilience program “we are seeking to better understand these issues over the next few years”.

He said $500,000 a year has been set aside in the council’s long-term plan for the next three years to help understand climate change adaptation needs. But it will take a long time before regional figures and options are produced.

The resilience program examined the resilience of diverse communities to climate change now and in the future.

Although the program focuses on the whole region, Liefting said particular attention is being paid to how the Hauraki Plains will be affected by coastal flooding and watershed flooding, as well as the Lower River. Waikato and its watersheds.

The Lower Waikato area was where there were large population centers, flood and drainage management issues, and a lot of development.

Liefting said much of the resilience program would take a “holistic approach” to the issues of too little and too much water. He would also work with communities and iwi on “how we call on all to adapt” to climate change.