Climate change News

Long-term threat to South Dunedin has not gone away

Green Party candidate for the new Taieri electorate Scott Willis is warning that a new report on surface flooding in South Dunedin should not lull the community and officials into a false sense of security.

With water all around, we need to understand the options we have, and prepare

– Scott Willis

“The threat hasn’t gone away, but our understanding of it has improved, thanks to great work by the GNS team” he said. As the report states, “Problems of surface flooding and groundwater inundation in low-lying parts of Dunedin are expected to increase with climate change.”

Flooding in South Dunedin
Flooding in South Dunedin during 2015

A new study

The new study from GNS Science has found that conditions that lead to surface flooding in South Dunedin are not as straightforward as previously thought. After a year of data collection from 23 boreholes, GNS has found that the soil beneath South Dunedin is not as permeable to rising tides as people had believed. This is useful to know because a 2015 report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment found that 2683 houses in Dunedin were less than half a metre above high tide – more than twice the number in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch combined.

“South Dunedin is built on what was once tidal wetlands and now supports a diverse community with a strong sense of pride and deep concern about the future. This isn’t surprising with threats directed at South Dunedin from the harbour, sea and hills, all at once. With water all around, we need to understand the options we have, and prepare” says Scott. Indeed, as the report states, South Dunedin is the New Zealand urban area at most extreme risk, because “groundwater beneath South Dunedin and Harbourside’s narrow coastal strip is faced with encroachment from all directions: the harbour in the east, the ocean in the south and changing runoff- and recharge- related flows from hill catchments in the north and west”.

South Dunedin flooding during 2015
South Dunedin flooding during 2015

The GNS study tells us that we have a bit more time to adapt to the rise in sea levels. The report’s main author Simon Cox reported on Radio NZ that “over the short to medium term, having less permeable ground and less water flowing through there, means that there will be a wider range of options that they can use for engineering to keep things going maybe over two to four decades.” But the water table under South Dunedin will continue to rise and the capacity of the soil above it to absorb extreme stormwater will therefore continue to reduce.

Scott is urging immediate and widespread action and support for community-led development of the low-lying areas so that the community can actively participate in and shape adaptation solutions. “Climate justice means ensuring our community has the power to participate in solutions rather than having decisions imposed. We need to be thinking ahead” he says, “The creativity and power of our community is something we can harness for good.” In the long run the best hope for South Dunedin is that New Zealand can show the world the same leadership on climate instability that it has in managing the Covid-19 pandemic. South Dunedin needs to be the first to show the way.

Read more:

Clean energy Climate change News Rural issues

Energy smarts – part 3

Questions from the audience

Energy Smarts | Part 3 | Questions from the audience

Getting to a zero carbon energy system

Worker inspects turbine footings with another wind turbine on the horizon providing zero carbon electricity
Building a zero carbon electricity system boosts jobs in the construction and electricity sectors.

Climate change is a grave threat facing all of humanity. As I said in my earlier post on democratising our energy system, past governments have failed to deal with this crisis. We know how to rapidly achieve zero carbon in our electricity system, we just need to get on and do it.

There’s not one single solution, there’s no one silver bullet. But we have all the solutions we need right at our fingertips. A key part of it is hidden in our hot water cupboards. Combining our hot water cylinders with new smart grid technology allows us to keep electricity demand under control. As a result we can eliminate dirty, carbon emitting electricity plants.

Another key is using Local Government to enable cleaner solar and especially wind power. Because in many areas, local councils have ambitious zero carbon road-maps, and Dunedin is a prime example of this. We urgently need to implement the measures I outlined in my earlier post to unshackle community wind power. This will enable the green revolution we need.

Groups like School Strikes for Climate show there is a groundswell of support for tackling climate change. The need is huge, and I’ve been working on the solutions. I’m asking you to give your party vote to the Greens to get these low carbon solutions over the line.


Greens bring win-win for farming and freshwater

Yesterday’s announcement about a new policy framework for freshwater in New Zealand was a triumph of principled endurance over entrenched interests. So many economic sectors and interest groups are implicated in the crisis of freshwater. That’s why nothing has happened for years. National and Labour governments have kicked the water football to touch, time and time again. Yesterday’s announcement signaled not so much a resolution of the water crisis, but a clear statement that the journey to something better has begun. And in the very nick of time.

Let’s be clear that we’ve started this journey because of the Green’s role in government. Despite the strength of agriculture and its power to threaten both National and Labour-led governments, we saw yesterday the triumph of the Green’s approach. We went beyond hand-waving and vague injunctions that farmers should do better. Due to the Green’s agricultural policy, the government has provided money to back those requests. The $700m for riparian planting is exactly the kind of support that has materialised because of the Greens. We convinced the government to commit resources to control wallabies and wilding pines. The Greens have turned out to be the only party getting those win-wins for farming and the environment. (And at the same time, we’ve achieved the largest ever increase in conservation funding.)

Will these initiatives resolve all our environmental concerns? Absolutely not! But we’ve established the framework. And just as importantly, we’ve opened the door to farmers. We’re inviting the industry that dominates our landscapes to move beyond neoliberal voluntarism and engage with us to heal the land. To leave enough space for nature to recover. Our lives literally depend on it.

The Greens have long called for freshwater improvements, and we’ll continue to do so. We’re the only party with environmental protection at our core. Help us achieve more for freshwater and for practical improvements in farming practices. Party vote Green in September.

Meanwhile, it’s time to smile.

The Green Party Agricultural Policy can be found here:

For a detailed summary of what the new approach involves for farmers:

And just to remind us how far we still have to go:


Democratise our Energy Sytem

Energy Smarts: part 1

We all know that our planet is at risk because past governments have done very little to prevent climate change. James Shaw’s work on the zero carbon bill has now laid the foundation for us to turn this around.

Covid-19 has been a huge challenge. It has shown us we can pull together to overcome the threat of disease, but we still face huge challenges. The good news is we can fix things without going back to the polluting industries of the past. For example, I have a plan to democratise our energy system. By removing the barriers to community wind power and investing in energy efficiency measures, we can green our energy supply, reduce our power bills and return profits to local communities all at the same time. We have the blueprint. With your support we can make it happen.