With its already dry summers, Wairarapa is predicted to be the worst hit Wellington area as climate change ramps up.
NIWA has just published its most recent climate change report for Wairarapa, which paints a picture of drier summers, heavier downpours and warmer average temperatures.
“Changes to the future climate of the Wairarapa are likely to be considerable, and typically more pronounced than remaining areas of the Greater Wellington Region,” the report concluded.
By 2040 the average temperature is expected to increase by 0.75-1.25 degrees, with a greater rate of annual moisture loss from the soil and many more hotter days each year.
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There were going to be fewer wet days, but heavier downpours when it did rain, which could create flooding problems.
The report, commissioned by the Greater Wellington Regional Council, included high resolution maps providing a targeted view of the different climatic zones and climate change impacts across Wairarapa.
Greater Wellington’s Wairarapa committee chairwoman Adrienne Staples said they were working with local communities to mitigate one of the key threats outlined in the report – heavier rainfall events and flooding.
“Given the impact of intense rainfall on our rivers, it’s no longer viable to focus solely on engineering solutions to flood management.
“So we’re looking to the future by enabling, within limits, the natural flow of our rivers, developing natural solutions to the impact of flooding and adapting land use to the conditions of the future.”
The ultra-long term weather forecast is not good news for water users, especially in light of the recent collapse of plans to build a large water storage reservoir in the hills west of Masterton.
The backers of the significant regional water scheme pulled the plug on the project earlier this month, blaming regulatory hurdles for its demise.
Dame Magaret Bazley oversaw the creation of last year’s Wairarapa Water Resilience Strategy, which had water storage as a major component of the region’s future water needs.
She said NIWA’s predictions showed how critical water was going to be for Wairarapa and community leaders and individuals needed to start planning now.
“At some point the population has to grasp the nettle and start managing for it and changing their lifestyle.
“People haven’t really grappled with the fact they have a very serious problem … they’ve got to get going right now and start thinking what as a community they’re going to do.”
Bazley said there were many small ways people could reduce their water consumption, which would amount to big savings.
“The only way forward is to do a lot of little things to make some sort of impact.”
Greater Wellington’s senior climate scientist Dr Alex Pezza said the new report more clearly presented the impact of climate change in the region than anything previously released.
“The clearer we can be in presenting the stark reality of climate change in Wairarapa, the better people will understand what the future looks like and the more likely they will be to change it for the better.
“So if people can grasp the scientific message from a position of strength and balance, they will naturally contribute towards a better future in their local community.”