Wednesday, February 15, 2023

Kate Hawkesby: If this is our new normal, we have to do better with vulnerable communities

This cyclone, much like the last storm that hit Auckland, has been a tale of two storms. 

Some parts have been absolutely hammered; others completely unscathed. Some lost power, homes, cars, roofs or trees, others barely felt it. 

The flooding was worse last time for Auckland; other parts of the country have been hit much harder with flooding with this one. Hawkes Bay, Gisborne and the West Coast of Auckland appear worst hit. 

And there is room I think, as I said yesterday, for a more bespoke response to these events. Instead of blanket cancellations and shut downs of a whole city, to look at areas affected and who needs what most. 

As I was out walking yesterday afternoon, I saw Auckland Grammar boys walking home from school, shops back open, cafes with big ‘we’re open!’ signs in the window, a little bit of action creeping back into the city. 

If you were to read the headlines from overseas you’d think it was apocalyptic in New Zealand. And in some parts it is. But in many areas there’s barely any sign of a cyclone, and there are people still trying to carry on, make a living, keep going, have their kids educated and run their businesses. 

Don’t get me wrong (I’m sure some will anyway), I’m not denying that for those hit hard it hasn’t been utterly horrendous, absolutely horrific in the areas that have been badly hit, and I feel for them. But does that warrant closing down a whole city of more than one and a half million people as happened with Auckland? 

So now as attention is turned to the clean-up, there’s the other sting in the tail; what's this all going to cost? Billions to the economy and goodness knows how much for ratepayers. 

What's it going to mean for insurance premiums, for infrastructure around beach and coastal communities, what's it going to mean for house sales.

I know people currently looking to buy a house whose primary concern was whether it had a garage for the car and a lawn for the kids to run around. Whether it’s fenced for the dog and has a good kitchen. That’s all now changed.

Their new and only concern now is drainage, whether it’s low-lying, and whether it was affected by any flooding. What sort of roof is on it? What sort of guttering? Is it in an area that could be cut off with only one access road?

These are the new and most pressing concerns of many people watching climate change crash its reality onto our doorsteps. 

From here we need well run planning on infrastructure. We need sound and considered responses on how and where we build, who oversees it and how it’s constructed. I'm hearing of people in brand new developments who've been flooded out of their homes in Hawkes Bay.

There is of course a balance to be struck with how this is executed. I don’t know how big built up cities like Auckland can really pull it off, but I just know it needs to happen.

Because if this is our new normal, then we have to do better with vulnerable communities in terms of infrastructure, drainage, and development.

And in many cases that’s not just whacking in rebuilds over the top of damaged areas, but rethinking exactly how, where and what gets built.

Kate Hawkesby is a political broadcaster on Newstalk ZB - her articles can be seen HERE.

1 comment:

another man said...

it's not Climate Change, up to then you were your sensible self.
CO2 is not a Pollutant.
Water Vapour is the culprit to heating.
The Oceans are the heat sink.
The moon affects undersea vents that affect temp.
The Sun drives all cycles.

If we build on flood plains this well happen again.
very simple.
the maps of them should be on every wall in every Council Planning Office.