Penny’s Piece, September 2015: Climate Change

Penny Gaylor Otaki's KCDC councillor
Penny Gaylor
Otaki’s KCDC councillor

I’ve noticed that every time it rains now people start wondering ‘when will it stop?’, and will there be more flooding. And I’ve noticed around the place that the water table is sitting high, and areas where water is ponding with the ground so saturated it is draining very slowly.

The June flood in Otaki was the fifth largest flood event since 1980. For the Waitohu Stream it was the second largest on record since 1994, and for the Mangaone Stream it was the fourth largest since 1975. The power of the water meant 1000 ton of rock was needed to repair damage along the Otaki River corridor. Cleanup of the recent May and June floods in the Kapiti Coast cost council nearly $400,000. Increasing rainfall is part of the climate change projections so could this level of flooding be our new norm?
After the June floods Otaki Community Board Chair James Cootes and I did site visits with KCDC staff as I wanted to see what work we needed to do for planning, preparing and mitigating for future flooding risk. The ‘to do’ list is being worked through, and some tasks were identified as the responsibility of Greater Wellington Regional Council.

In my role as councillor and Chair of the Environment and Community Development Committee I’m keen to see more discussion about climate change, because this is no longer a problem we need to think about in the distant future, it is the reality of today.

This month I hosted Megan Woods MP, Labour’s spokesperson on Climate Change and the Environment. Given the recent flooding across the district this was an opportune time to discuss policy and responses to the growing anxiety about what government and communities can do to mitigate and adapt for climate change. We were also joined by two students from Paraparaumu College’s environmental group. It’s crucial that younger generations get involved in these issues as, aside from being our future decision-makers, they are often eager to embrace changing behaviours and help educate us all about ways to reduce our carbon emissions.

Council’s own goal in this area is to decrease its emissions by 80% by 2021-22 compared with the baseline year of 2009. KCDC reductions by 2013-14 were a 49% reduction on that baseline. We are expecting a further significant reduction in this financial year from changes to our bio-solids disposal. Given the focus of the Committee I chair, I’m pleased our council is continuing to play a leadership role within our community to show what can be achieved within large organisations, and in households. A visit from a central government politician such as Megan Woods is a chance for our own success story to be shared and hopefully used to encourage other local and central government organisations.

Please contact me on penny.gaylor@kapiti.govt.nz if you’ve got a concern about the risks of flooding in your area. This really is a time when we have every right to be a NIMBY – Not In My Back Yard!