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Damaged crops, harsher droughts, and more pests with climate change

Sea level rise map NIWA report

Hawke’s Bay is facing wildfires, worsening droughts, crop damage, and more pests and disease in the next 70 years as a result of climate change, according to a new report.

The report, Climate change projections and impacts for Tairāwhiti and Hawke’s Bay, outlines the future with a worst-case scenario, and alternatively what it could look like if the world takes effective action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Regional Council Chief Executive James Palmer says it is the most comprehensive and wide-ranging assessment of climate change impacts on the region to date.

“It’s an incredibly important report, as it shows in detail how our region’s people, businesses, agriculture and infrastructure will be impacted. It underlines that we have a short window of time to act, and we must act now. The foundation of our regional prosperity and wellbeing of our region is the stability of our climate - it is arguably our greatest and most precious asset”, says Mr Palmer.

The report shows that annual average temperatures are projected to go up between 0.5 °C and 1 °C by 2040, and between 1.5 °C and 3 °C by 2090. This comes on top of the 1°C increase over the last century.

“Increases in average temperatures might not sound huge but they mean heatwaves will become more common, with increases of between 10-20 days by 2040, and 20-60 days by 2090,” he says.”

Mr Palmer says annual rainfall is projected to drop up to 5% by 2040, and up to 15% in parts of Hawke’s Bay by 2090. This will impact rivers in the region, which are looking at a 20% decrease in flow by 2090.

“This means there will be more droughts, and they’ll be harder to endure. It means our agricultural production will likely decrease and the health of our rivers will likely decrease, which will also affect our drinking water supplies,” he says.

Under an extreme worst-case scenario, the coast will be affected by sea level rise of up to 0.4m in 40 years and worsening coastal erosion.

 “Increasing temperatures will impact the primary sector through a growth in pests and diseases, which will impact the quality and quantity of fruit and vegetable crops, as well as the productivity of forestry and pasture.”

The report predicts that extreme, rare rainfall will become more severe, leading to more erosion in the hill country and damage to water supply and farm-land.

“The few opportunities the report highlights – increased pasture and plant productivity of select plants, less frost damage, and longer summers for tourists – are heavily outweighed by the serious consequences we’re looking at,” says Mr Palmer.

Regional Council chair Rex Graham says the report is a shove to pick up the pace on climate action.

“This is a scary report that shows how quickly the climate crisis is coming at us. We must do more to make our region more climate resilient, and decrease our greenhouse gas emissions.”

“We need to tackle this head on as a region and come together as a community. While we’re working hard at the Regional Council to make Hawke’s Bay more resilient to climate change, we need to do so much more as a region to achieve the transformational change required to reduce our environmental footprint and live more sustainably,” says Mr Graham.

The report was commissioned by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Gisborne District Council and Envirolink, and conducted by the National Institute for Water and Atmosphere (NIWA).

Read the full report here. To find out more about work the Regional Council is doing about climate change and what can be done as a community, head to our website.

Image: 1 metre sea level rise, plus a 1-in-100-year storm tide potentially inundates 960 hectares of orchards, vineyards and other crops, 180km of roads, over 20,000 buildings with a combined value of about $4.6 billion, and 23,410 people.


4 November 2020

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