Climate change influences council

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OPOTIKI district councillors have been asked for their opinions on climate change.

In the public forum of Tuesday’s council meeting, Xiaoyu Chen asked councillors for their thoughts on various aspects of the issue, particularly Opotiki’s low-lying flatlands.

According to Mayor John Forbes, the council has been considering the impacts of climate change for some time and takes these things “very seriously”.

He said climate change, rising sea levels and other factors were carefully considered by the council before decisions were made, from development to investment in infrastructure.

“The community should note the seriousness of the challenges we’re facing, and that council has been working to understand the impacts they are going to have,” he said.

“There will be significant impacts for us.”

Mr Forbes noted that lying between two large rivers, Opotiki was at high risk of flooding, meaning low-lying areas had to be carefully monitored.

Low-lying areas are pieces of land at low elevation, with those near the coast regarded as most vulnerable to sea-rise, according to a Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment document.

Chief executive Aileen Lawrie said risk assessments on these low-lying areas were “exceedingly complex, and exceedingly data-hungry”.

She gave an example of a coastal assessment which began in 1993 and was not completed until 2005.

“It’s not something we can do overnight, but it is something we can start doing now,” she said.

With this work continuing, Ms Lawrie revealed the council already worked to models which accounted for the effects of climate changes, with a stance of “mitigation, adaptation and avoidance”.

She said these models were created by using data to render terrain, then simulating different rainfall/flooding scenarios to see where was most at risk.

“Climate change is built into everything we do,” she said.

james.sandbrook@opotikinews.co.nz

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