New Technology Helps City Plan for Climate Change

4 December 2009

With the help of technology, Wellington City Council can now see how rising sea levels could affect the city and is proposing that more in-depth investigation work be done.

Predicted effect of a rise in sea level of one metre

Predicted effect of a rise in sea level of one metre

The Council's Strategy and Policy Committee yesterday considered the city's draft 2010 Climate Change Action Plan.  It agreed to consult next year on proposals that would help the city reduce its emissions and prepare for the impacts of climate change. These include studies that will help the Council work out which parts of the city are likely to be most vulnerable to rising sea levels.

To illustrate what the city may have to deal with, City Councillors were this week shown 3D graphics of the city's central business district demonstrating the effects of sea level rise. The computer-generated image shows that if the sea level rose by one metre with nothing done to protect the area, low-lying parts of the central business district may be at risk of flooding. 

The Council's Climate Change Portfolio Leader, Councillor Ray Ahipene-Mercer, says current Government advice is that local authorities should be preparing for up to one metre of sea level rise by the year 2100.

"It's important to remember that for areas such as the central business district, doing nothing is clearly not an option," he says.  "Tools like this help us to assess a range of appropriate response options, and will also help people understand why it is important to reduce emissions."

Cr Ahipene-Mercer says that it is critical to consider these kinds of impacts.

"Wellington has assets of local, regional and national importance worth billions of dollars that could be affected by sea level rise, including major roads, rail lines and the city centre. Now is the time to start thinking about this issue, and how we see the future of our city."

The Council is proposing to add to previous research on local sea level rise by taking part in a detailed regional coastal study led by Greater Wellington Regional Council next year. More detailed investigations to assess the vulnerability of other parts of Wellington City are proposed in 2011/12.