News: Sea level rise in South Wairarapa

10 May 2022

Climate change is a factor considered in almost everything the South Wairarapa District Council undertakes, particularly in future planning such as spatial plans, the Wairarapa Combined District Plan and the Long Term Plan.

An alarming new report by the NZ SeaRise Programme has found that the rate at which some parts of our coastline are sinking will exacerbate sea level rise. Wairarapa will have one of the most affected coasts.

According to the latest data, our climate change forecasts show that annual mean maximum temperatures may rise by up to 1.50°C by 2040 and up to 4.00°C by 2090. Annual mean minimum temperatures may rise by up to 0.75°C by 2040 and up to 2.50°C by 2090.

These latest projections available show that the relative sea level rise (that includes the vertical land movement) in South Wairarapa district could locally reach up to 0.72m in 2050 and 1.90m in 2100 (

Sea level rise is certainly expected at Cape Palliser and along the Tora coastline. In the coming years, the Council and its ratepayers will have to grapple with big questions about the cost-benefit ratio of continuing to mend the road for the Cape’s 200 or so residents and access to the Palliser lighthouse.  The expensive but more effective solution may be rerouting the low-lying section of the road to Ngawi.

In the meantime, battered points of Cape Palliser Road are being addressed. Boulders have traditionally been placed to help protect against erosion but a new product called EcoReef is being trialled at Whatarangi which will hopefully prove less likely to be washed away.

It’s hoped to install a second “reef” at Turners Bay in the calmer spring-summer months. EcoReef is a joint project between Wellington company Agmar Tools, which is supplying materials to prove the concept, and the Council which is providing installation.

Another aspect of South Wairarapa’s response to climate change is going to be the Wairarapa Combined District Plan, which is currently under review. The findings of NZ SeaRise will be part of this process. The plan should be open for public feedback in 2023.

Loss of biodiversity, increase pests and rodents, loss of cultural taonga, damage to roads and flooding, or pressure on drinking water sources are all risks from climate change.

This is why the Council’s climate change advisor, Mélanie Barthe, is working on both climate change mitigation (reducing our greenhouse gas emissions) with our Ruamāhanga Strategy, and climate change adaptation using risk assessments.

“Climate change is here but we can still make a difference to our environment and lives. It’s never been more urgent to do so and it’s going to take personal as well as corporate responsibility to effect change.

“Our coastal communities are not at major risk yet but thinking ahead is going to be critical for them.”

The Council is also helping residents reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and live better with the Home Health Self Assessment Kit released last year. It is difficult to heat a damp or draughty home and the toolkit will help you understand how your home is performing. It’s free to borrow from any of our libraries.

No matter who you are, you can also play a part in improving the wider environment.  Consider your energy consumption and measure your carbon footprint. These two sites will help you.

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