Experts gather in Auckland to discuss rising sea level

Tamaki Drive (Newshub.)
Tamaki Drive (Newshub.)

International experts are gathering today in Auckland to discuss how to manage the problem of rising sea levels.

It may not seem like an immediate threat, but experts say real implications are already at New Zealand's doorstep, and we need to adapt to manage our future.

Professor Jonathan Bamber is a climate research expert from the University of Bristol and the keynote speaker at today's conference. He says we need to face up to the reality that a rising sea is inevitable.

"Around the world, something like 200 million people are at risk of coastal flooding, from a sea level rise of a metre," Prof Bamber says.

"Just to put that in context, at the minute in Europe, we are experiencing a very serious migration crisis -- caused by the migration of around 2 million people.

"It actually may bring down some governments in Europe. So, just multiply that problem by 100 and you get an idea of some of the issues we might face in the next century because of sea level rise."

Over 9000 homes in New Zealand are only just above present high tide levels -- meaning they're already at risk in storms.

In places like Auckland, where there is a large gap between high and low tide levels, the average tide is currently around 3.0 metres and a large king tide can be around 3.7 metres.

If the sea level rises 30 centimetres, as projected, the average high tide will be around 3.7 metres and a king tide will be around 4.4 metres.

Experts gather in Auckland to discuss rising sea level

That rise will be enough to see areas like Auckland's Tamaki Drive flood more regularly -- and Insurance Council chief executive Tim Grafton says future homeowners need to consider this when they're investing in property.

"If you buy a property that is going to be at risk and you take out a large mortgage on that property for 25-30 years, then you need to think very carefully about what the value of that property will be over that period of time and the resaleability over that period of time as well."

For cities that do face a serious risk of future flooding, adapting to the new sea level will be crucial to minimising its damage.

Acting chief engineer of Auckland Council, Alan Tresadern, told Newshub that discussions have been underway for a while.

"Auckland has signalled through the Auckland Plan and through the Proposed Regional Policy Statement [in the Proposed Auckland Unitary Plan] that we will engage with communities to talk about what we do collectively to mitigate, adapt and build resilience," he said.

"We are all too aware that climate change and sea level rise will impact differently across our region and our communities.

"Our planning will consider costs, both economic and social -- including who bears the cost, public and private -- as well as what the costs may be to future Aucklanders."