After the deluge, hard questions rise

Coastal flooding due to sea-level rise has put more than 330 Department of Conservation sites at risk in New Zealand. Photo (a flood affecting roads, farmhouses and paddocks) for The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric (NIWA) Limited by Alan Blacklock (From Ministry of Environment website)

Our Sub-Leader- Indian Newslink Digital Edition (February 15, 2023)

Auckland, February 16, 2023

About ten days before Cyclone Gabrielle hit many parts of North Island this week, Auckland was deluged by torrential rain, damaging public property, offices and private homes.

The destruction wrought by the heavy downpour is still being assessed and barely had Aucklanders emerged from this experience, ‘Gabrielle’ struck at the core of life.

Cyclone Gabrielle was a forewarned event, and the central and local governments were able to put in place evacuation plans, shelters and other essential services for people who may need them. Community groups rose to the occasion, mobilising their strength, and bringing essential supplies to affected areas.

The Auckland City Council took the pre-emptive action of declaring an Emergency, which was later followed by the central government at the national level.

As the clean-up continues as the aftermath of the natural disaster, questions will be asked as to how well the crisis was managed- its adequacy or otherwise; whether the emergency management teams performed to the expected levels and if there were enough resources placed at their disposal and so on.

The Climate Change

There is a larger equation that must be solved, even as critics mount their allegations.

If Climate Change is real, what are we doing to counter it or cope with it as New Zealanders?

In drafting the National Adaptation Plan, the Environment Ministry said that it was time to ‘build a climate resilient New Zealand.’

“The climate has warmed by 1.1° C in the past 100 years. We are already seeing the devastating effects. We can expect to continue to see rising sea levels, more extreme weather events, and increased risk of wildfire and drought. We can meet the challenges of a changing climate – but there is no time to waste. We need to take action now. That is the purpose of this national adaptation plan,” the Ministry website warned last year.

The devastating effects of the deluge caused by the heavy downpour in Auckland on January 26, 2023 and the ensuing days and Cyclone Gabrielle should be our wake-up call.

United Approach

Instead of arguing over the veracity of Climate Change, we should consider appropriate measures to tackle it.

Last year, the government announced its intention to introduce three pieces of legislation that will replace the Resource Management Act, which has outlived its purpose since its enforcement in 1991 and address the challenges of Climate Change. These are the Natural and Built Environments Bill, the Strategic Planning Bill and the Climate Adaptation Act to help New Zealand deal with the challenges, particularly ‘managed retreat,’ which entails strategic relocation of communities or assets prone to natural hazards.

No more time should be lost.

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