A pīwakawaka (fantail) flitted among the audience at the Takutai Kāpiti summit on Sunday (March 8).
As a messenger of death in Māori mythology, the fantail’s presence at Ōtaki’s Ngā Purapura might have been a climate harbinger – an omen of things to come. The summit certainly had some ominous messages about the future for Kāpiti and the planet. However, there was also optimism that the future could be brighter if communities, iwi and central and local government collaborated.
The summit, organised by Kāpiti Coast District Council, drew about 170 people from throughout the region. As Mayor K Gurunathan said in his opening address, it was to start a conversation about climate change. He said it was an opportunity to discuss how everyone could work together to tackle climate change.
“We can’t do it on our own,” he said. “And putting it in the too-hard basket is not an option.”
The challenges in the conversation Guru alluded to were highlighted on a couple of occasions during the meeting.
A panel discussion led by former prime minister Jim Bolger was interrupted several times by an interjector challenging the contention of Prof Bruce Glavovic that the science was unequivocal about the reality of climate change. Bruce is EQC chair in resilience and natural hazards planning at Massey University.
On another occasion, Insurance Council insurance manager John Lucas pointed out that insurers were constantly looking at risk. In some parts of the world, people living in some areas would not automatically be insured against flooding. In the case of Kāpiti, he suggested the council should issue flood maps showing the areas of risk.
Called to respond, Guru said the council had already had legal challenges about publicising where it believed there were risks, but “the other side successfully challenged it with their experts”.
Both issues showed how it would not be an easy task to get consensus on a future path to tackle climate change.
While there were clearly a few deniers of climate change in the audience, there was unanimity among the speakers.
Mahina-a-rangi Baker, pou takawaenga taiao, environment manager for Ātiawa ki Whakarongotai, offering a mana whenua perspective on the topic, showed a map depicting the effects of a 100-year storm on Ōtaki.
Flooding would cover much of Katihiku Pā, the area of the old Rangiuru Pā and Māori trust land along Tasman Road. People would not only be displaced from their homes, but the economic impact could include a loss of income from Tasman Road farming, which helps to pay for young people to attend university.
Jim Bolger said it was important for people concerned about climate change to “talk to each other, listen and have a willingness to challenge”.
“We must look deep into our values.”
Renowned weather and climate researcher James Renwick, professor of physical geography at Victoria University, highlighted the effects of climate change on Kāpiti Coast. As a coastal region it would be particularly affected by rising sea levels, the degree of which depended on what would be done through human intervention.
“Every 10cm of sea level rise will triple inundation occurrence,” he said. “There will be damage to houses, roads and train lines.”
Higher temperatures would warp train tracks and damage road surfaces, and put the viability of horticulture and agriculture at risk.
What could be done? Retreat from the coast, improve drainage and change land uses, he suggested.
He said growth should be halted in all its forms. “Growth is just not sustainable in the long term.”
There would be more coastal inundation, floods, heatwaves and drought.
“We are entering a climate not seen for thousands of years. Everything is changing.”