Photo credit: Panamericana Televisión, " New Zealand: Strong waves threaten to disappear Hawke Bay homes" (6 July 2017)
Re RNZ’s report (“Checkpoint”, 4 July) on Matata’s flood prone circumstances: Firstly, we can accept the Whakatane District Council should’ve acted faster to determine the flooding danger and an appropriate response to mitigate future risk. And it’s right to demand that this situation (including fairly addressing affected residents’ rights and interests) get priority attention now after 12 years’ of Council delays (since the 2005 flood) in identifying the “high risk” area.
However, the bigger picture is that this is simply another manifestation of climate crisis unfolding, including NZ’s utter lack of strategic response preparedness. Today, it’s Matata – but tomorrow, it’ll be ‘a town near you’. We know this because the data on record has told us for some time now that severe weather events are occurring more frequently, with more force, and oceans are steadily rising (the latest disturbing news being that the 2,200-square-mile Anarctica Larsen C ice shelf broke off, and is now adrift in the Southern Ocean).
The upshot is that, among other climate crisis mitigation and adaptation action, Aotearoa (like many towns and cities around the world) needs a coordinated re-settlement plan for our coastal areas, and to ensure our communities (including our infrastructure) are resilient and fit for a climate crisis ‘now’, let alone in the future. We have to design and implement this plan with all due haste while we (a) still have some measure of control over certain logistical variables and (b) can choose to respond thoughtfully (as opposed to being forced to react in panic mode when the next calamity hits, which will certainly result in sub-optimal outcomes).
Therefore we shouldn’t leave every local council to deal with this predicament alone. We’re all going to have to pull together, regardless of our differences. In letting go of attachments to our homes, coastal villages, kāinga and ways of life there’ll be a lot of grief to work through. Those of us in more secure positions (relatively speaking) whether geographically, financially or emotionally will need to dig deep into their stores of humanitarianism as we support those more vulnerable.
In all the politicking this election cycle around immigration, it would be tragic to ignore this ‘local climate refugee’ elephant already in the room. We’re all going to have to make sacrifices to ensure no person is left behind. It’s time for kiwis to stand for their true values: will it be for a responsible yet bold, visionary and compassionate Government who fosters a collaborative spirit? Or will it be for a Government who continues to demonize ‘the other’, pit the haves and have nots against one another and divide our nation? You have the power to decide this election, citizens.
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