Media release

Serious conversation needed on sea level rise issue

Thursday 19 November 2015

The fact that sea levels are rising and will continue to do so is something the Otago community cannot ignore – and the conversation about how to address this issue needs to start now, Otago Regional Council chairman Stephen Woodhead says.

Mr Woodhead was responding to the release today by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment of a report titled Preparing New Zealand for rising seas: Certainty and Uncertainty.

Dr Jan Wright’s key finding was that New Zealand needs to better prepare for the impacts of a rising sea on its coastal towns and cities.

Mr Woodhead said ORC agreed with the report’s finding and had been working for some time on natural hazard analysis and policy planning to anticipate the effects of sea rise, including with district and city councils, and through its Regional Policy Statement.

“There is no doubt that our community faces some challenging issues in continuing to prepare for these effects, as sea levels continue to rise,” he said.

“Our approach needs to be considered and measured. However, the conversation about what that response should be involves everyone – not just councils and the Government – and in Otago that conversation needs to start now.”

ORC, as part of its Long Term Plan 2015-2025, has a number of initiatives to help address the sea level rise issue – these include continuing to work with Otago councils to integrate natural hazard information into District Plans; with Dunedin City Council, developing a natural hazard risk management strategy for South Dunedin; assessing the effects of sea level rise and shoreline retreat on the Clutha Delta; and improving the measurement of sea level at the Green Island sea level recorder.

Mr Woodhead said ORC had built up a significant resource of scientific and technical documents (available at on sea level rise, including a 2012 report on the South Dunedin coastal aquifer and the effect of sea level fluctuations; and a recently-published report on the June floods in South Dunedin.

“We will continue to monitor and plan for the effects of sea level rise and publish updated science to support the community conversation about how best to proceed in responding to this important issue,” Mr Woodhead said.

For more information contact

Stephen Woodhead
Ph 027 2801635