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Waikato Regional Council working on sea level rise modelling tool

An online tool to help people see the impacts of projected sea level rise scenarios on coastal properties is being worked on by Waikato Regional Council.

The tool – likely to be released early next year – will allow people to see how different levels on sea level rise may affect coastal areas. It won’t, however, make predictions about when such sea rise levels may be achieved. People can choose for themselves what the most likely water levels will be over what time frame.

“Basically this is a tool to let people see where the sea may rise to under various scenarios that they self select,” said senior regional hazards advisor Rick Liefting who briefed the strategy and policy committee today on the tool.

“People will be able to make their own judgment, based on advice from a range of agencies, on when those scenarios might actually occur.”

The tool – and the data it will model – is going through a process of being tested, checked and consulted on with key stakeholders before being made available, hopefully by March next year. Local councils are part of this process.

The modeling work is being done under the council’s regional hazards programme and is part of that team’s brief to provide good quality public information on risks. That is in line with the recent comment of the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment who, when commenting on sea level rise, said councils had a role to play in informing and educating the public on the risks.

Projected sea level rise is likely to exacerbate already at risk areas and significantly increase risk in other areas.

“Starting to plan now for the future allows us time to manage impacts as best we can,” said Mr Liefting.

He said the first stage of planning for sea level rise is identifying areas susceptible to projected sea level rise impacts. The tool will help people with being able to see how it will potentially impact them.

“While there are a range of scenarios and time frames for managing coastal hazard risks, the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement states we should be looking at effects of sea level rise over at least 100 years for some developments.

“We also need to ensure we are capturing data and monitoring the environment in a way that will provide useful information for landowners and councils  to better manage effects of projected sea level rise.”

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