It’s been called a slow-moving crisis.
How will NZ deal with rising seas that threaten it?
Dave Cull calls it a slow-moving disaster.
That might be a tired cliche to describe climate change – a quick Google search will find you more than 300,000 similar references – but Cull can use it with a great degree of candor.
The Dunedin mayor is already reckoning with the monster.
South Dunedin – home to about 10,000 residents – 12 schools – six rest homes and an aged wastewater and stormwater system – sits across a spread of low-lying flats between Otago Harbour and the Pacific Ocean.
‘If you take a situation where there is possible retreat or coastal erosion and it’s affecting privately owned properties – in the case of South Dunedin it’s rather a lot of them – then it’s not imminent but it’s still kind of like a slow-moving earthquake’.
Other hot spots include Haumoana in Hawke’s Bay where 2m of coastline was recently washed away in a week and Matata in Bay of Plenty which may have set one of the country’s first climate-related precedents after the council removed the land rights of 34 at-risk seaside homes.
But if the sea level rose according to official projections those localised issues would become a drop in the rising ocean.
Two-thirds of us already live in areas prone to flooding.
As more people and infrastructure concentrate in our largest cities the risk would only grow.