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Flood solutions slip-sliding away

Flood solutions slip-sliding away

The Green Party said today that the Government must take a stronger line to climate change factors and unsustainable land use to mitigate the effects of the catastrophic flooding and extreme weather events that will continue to plague New Zealand in the future.

"The Government is to be commended for acting in a swift manner to the emergency in the Bay of Plenty and our sympathies are with the residents affected by the disaster," said Green MP Ian Ewen-Street, the Green Party's Agriculture and Associate Environment spokesperson.

"Clime change is a reality, and we're pleased that the Prime Minister has clearly acknowledged this. However the lessons we should have learnt from past events have not been followed.

"The Bay of Plenty floods, the Manawatu floods of March 2004, Cyclone Bola of 1986 and all the other one-in-100-year floods and weather bombs that have hit New Zealand in the last 20 years should have provided a strategic plan to deal with weather events. Sadly, we still have none.

"New Zealand is looking at a bill running into the tens of millions for the Bay of Plenty, adding to the $300 million damage bill for the Manawatu region in March. But these costs could have been reduced if we had a government that took steps to mitigate the effects of these weather disasters," he said.

Mr Ewen-Street said the solutions lay in the shorter-term reforestation of marginal land in the agriculture sector and in long-term measures to put the brakes on climate change.

"When towns are flooded downstream, we must take a serious look at what is happening upstream," he said. "We are reaping the cost of a century of the clear-felling of marginal land to be used for pasture.

"After Cyclone Bola there was a clear acknowledgement by the Government of the day to reforest marginal land in the Bay of Plenty and the East Coast and to take a new approach to disaster management.

"And, in the aftermath of the Manawatu floods there was a clear need to include systemic tree planting and the retiring of marginal land, especially in the headwaters and catchment areas. If we slow down the water velocity and reduce the silt load upstream, we won't have lives lost and family homes destroyed downstream.

"So this time, rather than simply assisting farmers to recover only to the point of using their land again in an unsustainable way, any assistance package should be clearly tied to efforts to change their land use to include reforestation with indigenous species on marginal land.

"If we don't take heed of these lessons now, New Zealand is set for more devastation in the future - and one-in-100-years seems a pretty obsolete estimate now," said Mr Ewen-Street.

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