Over the weekend Wellington’s south coast was hit with wild waves that closed roads and tunnels, leaving boulders and other debris in their wake (watch the videos here). The Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) says that this type of occurrence is becoming increasingly common due to the effects of climate change. This blog looks at the effects of rising sea levels and destructive waves on the construction and infrastructure industries.
David Lee, councillor and leader of the Environment – Climate Change portfolio at GWRC, thinks that New Zealand needs to start planning for the future. He believes that the Council needs to protect and strengthen the coast roads now, but also plan for a managed retreat from the coast in the future.
Protecting the coast now would involve building new bigger seawalls, although the new seawalls on Wellington’s south coast did not stop the waves on Sunday. It would also involve strengthening the roads around the coast, as GWRC admits that while these roads will hold for the next 10 years, they are prone to being washed away in the next 50 years. Mr Lee thinks that this issues will increasingly become a big public spending and policy priority. The construction and infrastructure industries will be in demand to protect coastal roads and coastal properties.
This is not solely a New Zealand issue. Many countries share this problem and are considering how best to protect coastal infrastructure and communities. For example:
- The UK was devastated by huge floods in 2013, despite sea walls being in place;
- Japan has decided to build a 400km long, 12.5m high Tsunami wall after the 2011 Japan Tsunami; and
- Artificial structures (such as Dubai’s World islands) have impacted the environment through increased erosion, changes in sea currents and damage to the ecosystem.
In the near future, councils around New Zealand will need to plan ahead. Murray Hosking, chairperson of the Friends of Taputeranga Marine Reserve Trust (a community group in Wellington), says ‘more planning needed to happen, rather than waiting for disaster to strike’.