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Neville Peat speaks on West Coast hazards

West Coast towns vulnerable to climate change events and their lack of support at government level are at the heart of an illustrated talk to be given by environmentalist and climate change author Neville Peat in Hokitika on 16 May.

“Ex-tropical cyclones have caused widespread coastal damage in recent years, and the West Coast has been among the regions in the firing line,” Peat says. “Townships north of Westport were hard hit by Cyclone Fehi in February last year, and some residents called it the worst incursion by the sea in living memory.

“For decades, climate scientists have been forecasting more intensive storm events from global warming, and increased rainfall from warming seas. What alarms me most is the negligence of successive governments when it comes to helping vulnerable coastal communities tackle the problem. Too often such communities and their councils are left to themselves to fend off the invading sea.”

Peat, a former Otago regional councillor and Dunedin city councillor, is the author of The Invading Sea: coastal hazards and climate change in Aotearoa New Zealand (The Cuba Press, Wellington).

“To me, the coast is the frontline of climate change, the frontline with the most to lose. Central government has been described as ‘missing in action’ when it comes to addressing the issues. Most local councils, too, need to take the issue more seriously and start adaptation planning in earnest but they are looking round for leadership.

“The fact is, for some 20 years, New Zealand has been found wanting on both coastal hazard preparedness and greenhouse gas mitigation – it’s been a case of too little, too slow, too inclined to be leaving it to the next generation.

“Whereas prior generations were unaware of climate change, future generations will be powerless to stop it. Without pre-emptive action, it’s likely the most exposed communities could face a combination of Hell and High Water!”

Neville Peat will be speaking at the Westland District Library in Sewell Street, Hokitika, at 5.30 pm on Thursday 16 May. His West Coast writing includes Cascade on the Run, Forever the Forest and a chapter in Detours, his study of New Zealand small towns by touring cycle.

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