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Climate change impacts widespread: GDC report

Climate change will have widespread social, environmental and economic impacts on the district.

That is the warning in a report to be discussed at the council tomorrow.

Warmer temperatures mean issues such as drought, water security and flooding may become more severe, the report says.

Natural processes such as coastal erosion and sedimentation, which already cause significant adverse effects in Tairawhiti, may be exacerbated. Industries such as agriculture and horticulture may need to adapt management practices to remain profitable in the new climate.

A workshop will be scheduled for early 2019 at which three options will be presented covering a status quo approach, internal policy and regional strategy.

The report prepared by policy adviser Chris Gilmore and policy planner Hannah Stearns says that by 2090 Tairawhiti can expect warmer temperatures, changes in seasonal weather patterns and more severe droughts and storms.

A graph of annual temperature and rainfall changes if greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate — the worst case scenario — show Tairawhiti could be approximately 3 degrees Celsius warmer and 4 percent drier by 2090.

Under this scenario, frosts may become rare in Tairawhiti by 2090 and the number of hot days (above 25C) could be over 90 in some parts of the district, or 25 percent of the year. The projected number of cold nights (below 0C) could be five.

The temperature changes will have widespread effects, for example affecting the productivity of primary industry and creating a more favourable climate for exotic pests and diseases.

Water security may decline, affecting households and commercial users.

The report says climate change could also mean more severe wind and rainfall during storms. These storm events could cause more damage from flooding, increased erosion and landslides, and the generation and mobilisation of woody debris.

The report also lists the possible flow-on effects from sea level rise, such as the potential to cause more overflows of wastewater to the stormwater network and increased flooding. Soil productivity may be adversely affected if soil salinity increases.

There are financial implications through declining affordability and availability of insurance. If the level of risk increases sufficiently, insurers will stop offering cover. Without insurance, finance such as mortgages will be difficult to obtain, leading to instability in the market and limiting the ability of homeowners to respond to climate change.

The report says to date the council has not formally considered the role it should play in driving climate change mitigation and/or adaptation.

“This is an important conversation,” it says, adding that further strategic guidance on how the council and its communities can respond to climate change is required.

The 2018-2028 Long Term Plan says the council intends to create an environmental strategy for Tairawhiti within the 10-year window of the plan and, among other matters, directs that this “should aspire to include plans to support resilient community development and planning in response to climate change”.

The spatial plan process provides one mechanism for starting conversations with tangata whenua, the community and stakeholders regarding climate change and the impacts for Tairawhiti.

Recommendations on a strategic response to climate change will be reported to the council in mid-2019. These will be informed by engagement undertaken as part of the spatial plan process.

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