By Mike S Payton, Contributing Reporter
MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA – New Zealand, the country of just under five million in the South Pacific, has recently published a report estimating that the cost to replace their coastal buildings that will be lost to rising seas could exceed $12 billion (NZD$19 billion).
Their Ministry of Environment states, ‘Much of New Zealand’s urban development and infrastructure is located in coastal areas. This makes it vulnerable to coastal hazards such as coastal erosion, inundation (flooding) by the sea and sea level rise.’
The country is made up of two main landmasses — the North Island, and the South Island — and around 600 smaller islands. With 15,000 kilometres (9,300 mile) of coastline, New Zealand has the 9th longest shores in the world.
According to Stuff magazine, if the sea level rises by 1.5 meters, as expected by 2100, more than 6,000 kilometers of drinking water, wastewater and stormwater pipes and 2,000 kilometers of roads are also at risk, as cited in the Our Marine Environment report.
Some positive news is that Surf Life Saving New Zealand (SLSNZ) national manager Allan Mundy told Stuff that the surf life saving buildings could be eased by better dune management. “What we can do to save the clubs, and the beaches, is to encourage good dune communities,” he said.
Sea walls were very expensive to maintain, but the protection of a dune could be almost free, he said. “Looking at our beaches, a majority of them will benefit from this kind of project.” However he warned it wouldn’t be a quick fix.
The USD $12 billion price tag could be even higher if sea levels exceeded the projections for 2100, the Ministry for the Environment’s Our Marine Environment report said, and it warned recreation and heritage could also be affected.
A recent New Zealand Department of Conservation (DOC) report estimated that 331 DOC assets and 119 visitor sites were potentially at risk from coastal erosion and sea level rise.
In April this year another report, Environment Aotearoa 2019, jointly produced by the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand’s jointly, also estimated the economic losses associated with soil erosion and landslides is at least USD$159-191 million a year.
Climate change author Neville Peat, who published Invading Seas last year, warned, “Councils need to be looking in more detail than what they have been up until now.”
Adding, “The risks are pretty scary when you look at Napier, Christchurch and Dunedin, you can see some pretty scary numbers in terms of residences and treatment plants, substations at risk … the numbers get up in to the thousands.”