Catherine Delahunty

Climate Change and Storms

by Catherine Delahunty

There have always been massive rainstorm and floods on the Coromandel, it’s part of our history and geography. Cyclone Ita was the first huge event for some years and even then the effects were limited to certain areas of the Peninsula. But seeing the impact of this storm on the landscape of the northern Coromandel has changed my world view.

Ongohi Bridge broken by storm Port Jackson road,massive debris issues

Ongohi Bridge broken by storm Port Jackson road,massive debris issues

On Saturday I went up to visit the families who farm on the affected land and who live close to the coast. I have to say the violence of this event terrified me. I have seen a lot of floods and slips over more than 30 years in our area but nothing as bad as this. The weather bomb hit Te Moehau, the mountain and gouged swathes of native forest off the back country slopes. Tonnes of water, trees and large boulders roared down the mountain and blocked up creeks which turned into debris choked rivers. The silt and boulders tore through fences and paddocks all the way to the coast. Large broken trees landed on the coastal flats in a sea of mud, gravel and silt. The concrete bridge at Ongohi was broken in half. At least one house on the west coast and numerous baches on the east coast were flooded and gardens and roads destroyed.

Witnessing this days after the event (when much work to clean up had already been carried out) I felt humbled and scared. There is so much debris blocking the creeks in the high country. More rain will come and bring debris down. It’s a huge job for the farming community and DOC who live and worked in this beautiful area. Some areas experience these effects from bad forestry management but this storm was different. It destroyed catchments from top to bottom and it will no doubt slowly heal. Until the next time.

That’s the trouble with human induced climate instability, we know there will be more to come and that it can get worse. I feel for the local communities living downstream. We all have to support affected communities, next time it could be our community. The future requires us to be realistic and to respect nature’s capacity to both destroy and to heal. It’s our human capacity to destroy and to heal that is being put to the test. How we vote in September will determine whether Parliament steps up to the climate issue and in support of community resilience. The leadership and the fresh thinking of the Green Party on these issues are urgent and essential.

Published in Environment & Resource Management by Catherine Delahunty on Wed, July 2nd, 2014   

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