Far more collaboration between local and central government is needed in the next three years to address “the slow-moving earthquake” that is climate change, Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull says.
This applied to both adapting to and mitigating the effects of change, he said.
Sea level rise and coastal erosion were the big environmental issues affecting Dunedin and South Dunedin had been identified as one of the riskiest places in the country.
With 2700 homes within half a metre of sea level, it did not take “much imagination” to realise there would be challenges, he said.
Mr Cull, who is also president of Local Government New Zealand, likened the impact of climate change to a “slow-moving earthquake”.
Central government took a big role when there were earthquakes, but was not yet recognising its role in climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Mr Cull said the impact of extreme weather was more serious than just the immediate financial implications at the time, particularly if such events increased in frequency, and infrastructure needed to be upgraded to cope.
“That’s not something you do overnight. We can’t rip up every stormwater pipe in South Dunedin and make it bigger.”
More progress was needed on funding mechanisms for a variety of big infrastructure projects.
Another national issue, water quality, was also relevant to Dunedin, he said.
Cleaning up the city’s stormwater discharges was a “really big challenge” and a very expensive one and decisions would need to be made about how it would be paid for.
Asked about tourism growth in the city, Mr Cull said care needed to be taken to ensure “the pressure of numbers doesn’t compromise the very attractions which are bringing people here”.
Otago Chamber of Commerce chief executive Dougal McGowan said the organisation had an active focus on the environment, and was part of a group looking at reducing emissions.
Business had a part to play in safeguarding the environment, and could take the lead in some areas, such as electric vehicles.
“We want to make sure that all businesses are sustainable and can employ more people,” Mr McGowan said.
He hoped that there would be no “knee-jerk reactions” from the new government, and that business would be given a chance to adapt to any new policies.
There was a common misconception business was “anti-environment”, but this was not the case.
Business people absolutely understood the value of the environment.
Many – particularly tourism related businesses – relied on biodiversity, Mr McGowan said.