NIWA thanks Whitianga community for their views

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NIWA’s coastal scientists met with members of the Whitianga community last week, and thanked them for their input into a NIWA research project, Coastal Adaptation to Climate Change.

The project looked at how coastal communities can respond to potential impacts on their environment caused by climate change.

Forums were held in Whitianga earlier in the year looking at projected changes at the coast due to sea level rise. During these events, the community identified things that they value about living in Whitianga that might be impacted by sea level rise, and then debated possible ways to manage Whitianga for the future.

The things they value now, and the things they may need to do to manage Whitianga for the future, didn’t always sit easily together. The community could see that agreeing how to proceed as a community, faced by the impacts of rising sea levels, would be extremely challenging. But they could also see that it will be necessary.

NIWA Project Leader Dr Helen Rouse told the community group that the work done in Whitianga will help other areas as its helped NIWA think about how to present climate change information to communities. Dr Rouse said that this would be very useful for NIWA as it moves forward and makes recommendations for doing this for the whole of New Zealand.

Paul Scott, a science teacher at Mercury Bay Area School, told the community group about curriculum units that have been developed and taught this year to the school’s Year 10 students. The units cover science, maths, English and social sciences elements to help students to understand climate change, explore coastal management issues, and importantly, allow students to become familiar with their local coastal environment.

Dr Rob Bell outlined some recent research showing the already recorded sea-level rise in New Zealand, and compared this to global trends.

Dr Bell said that rising sea levels may make existing issues like coastal inundation and erosion worse, and likely to happen more often. He explained that this is why the community needs to plan well ahead to adapt to such changes.

Dr Rouse told that group that NIWA have shared the information gathered with the local councils, Environment Waikato and Thames Coromandel District Council. She said that ultimately the councils and the community they represent will need to work together to make decisions on how these potential issues might be managed.

She said, on behalf of NIWA, how happy they are that the councils are already using this information in their Coromandel Peninsula Blueprint project.

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Regional Manager - Christchurch and Nelson
Research subject: Climate changeGeology