Climate change help pledged

Canvassing . . . Labour candidate Clare Curran addresses Tuesday's candidate meeting in South Dunedin. PHOTO: VALU MAKA

Government help for the Dunedin City Council in its battle against climate change in South Dunedin was promised by several candidates at an election forum in the suburb on Tuesday.

Dunedin South National Party candidate Matt Gregory said the DCC was doing “a heck of a lot of work” around climate change in South Dunedin.

When the council had come up with some solutions, a National-led government would sit down with it and go through the options.

If financial support was needed, “we will help them”, he said.

Mr Gregory told more than 40 people at the Dunedin South candidates’ meeting, organised by the Greater South Dunedin Action Group and Greypower Otago, there was no way the party would want to put anyone in the city in harm’s way.

His Labour counterpart, current MP Clare Curran, said the effect of climate change on South Dunedin – the lowest-lying, most densely populated part of the country – was too big an issue for local government, but central government was paying no attention and should be brought to the table.

Ms Curran and The Opportunities Party candidate, Lindsay Smith, both mentioned the need for reform of civil defence.

Ms Curran said the Government was “sitting” on a report addressing improvements to the response to major events.

Mr Smith said civil defence “should not just be about sand bags and pumping stations”.

“Where’s the back-up we need for the social effects?” he asked.

The DCC, with its ratepayer base, could not be expected to fund building sea walls.

The Government should not sit on reports about climate change impacts “while we’re sitting here in Dunedin watching sea bubble up through manholes,” Mr Smith said.

Dunedin North Green Party candidate Niki Bould, standing in for Dunedin South candidate Shane Gallagher, said climate change was a major issue for South Dunedin and the party did not want to be “the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff”.

Serious changes were needed, working in conjunction with the community, she said.

New Zealand First candidate Kerry Rushton suggested some of the problems in South Dunedin were the result of the suburb becoming like a “concrete jungle” in the past 30 years, which meant water could not get out to sea in times of flooding.

Raised garden beds in areas such as the Pak ‘n’ Save car park could help, as the water would take longer to filter down.

This would not be a complete cure. The party would also look at such measures as sea walls, she said.

As well as climate change, candidates answered questions on housing, health funding, the Dunedin Hospital rebuild, public transport, and euthanasia, at the 90-minute meeting.