Waikato River Authority welcomes climate change focus

The Waikato River Authority has welcomed the Government’s focus on dealing with climate change with today’s declaration of an emergency to bring greater impetus for action.

Authority Crown Co-Chair Paula Southgate and River Iwi Co-Chair Elect Tipa Mahuta say climate change is one of the greatest threats to the health and well being of the Waikato River and Waipā River.

“The Authority has for sometime been very aware of the risks to the river catchments from climate change and we welcome the stand by Parliament to declare an emergency,” says Paula Southgate.

Ms Mahuta says the future of the Waikato River depends on everyone working together to combat climate change.

“Climate change makes achieving the vision of a healthy river even more difficult than it already is. We are trying to anticipate the future damage while still trying to clean up what has happened directly in the last 100 years,” she says.

The declaration of a climate change emergency is based on the finding of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that global emissions need to fall dramatically to avoid more than 1.5C of warming.

As well as the direct impact of a warming environment on flora and fauna in the rivers, the Authority is also concerned about more frequent adverse weather events from climate change that could bring about more erosion in the catchments.

The co-chairs say the Waikato River Authority has already invested more than $50 million into many hundreds of clean-up projects in the last ten years. Without action on climate change what has been achieved so far will be for nothing.

The Waikato River Authority held a conference workshop last year where a number of speakers were invited to examine the particular issues facing the river catchment from climate change. Organisations represented included the Ministry for Primary Industries, NIWA, local government and iwi.