Food shortages and eroding coastlines are an increasingly urgent problem across the Pacific, thanks to climate change.

Caritas has just released Turning the Tide, its 2017 report on the state of the environment in Oceania.

Problems accessing safe food and drinking water were highlighted, with the increasing frequency of natural disasters making the problem more urgent.

"Our experience in 2016/17 is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the health and integrity of these sources [of local food supplies] - especially after a disaster," the report said.


"The poor are most affected when local supplies are disrupted - they often cannot afford to buy food and water from other sources."

George Alabeni from Arihu Rural Training Centre in Solomon Islands, told Caritas the sea was now becoming so hot, it was unpleasant.

"Before you just go down to the shore and might take fish and see a lot of seashells, crabs and the beauty of the sea; everything.

"There are birds all around the beach, very white beach.

"Now seabirds' coastal homes are being destroyed, and dead fish are washing up on shore.

"We don't expect it, and it's new to us. We have never seen those things happening."

Meanwhile those living in Tuvalu and Vanuatu had been forced to permanently change their diet after Cyclone Pam.

Climate justice advocate Aso Ioapo said locals hadn't been able to replant crops damaged by the storm surges and flooding of the 2015 disaster.


"Since the cyclone they have had to use more imported food, from stores, including chicken, meat, because our food was destroyed in the cyclone.

"Imported food is very new for us in our lives.

"We miss all of our local foods, because in Tuvalu they really need the fish every day ... you have breakfast, morning, lunch and dinner with the fish."

Caritas rated the impact of coastal erosion, flooding, and rising seas as "severe".

It said coastal flooding and sea level rise was displacing increasing numbers of people, especially around Papua New Guinea.

While Caritas acknowledged climate aid money was increasing, it said the funding still fell short of what was needed.

In particular it said that New Zealand "could be playing a pivotal role", yet "seems to be lagging and even reducing its commitments to the Pacific".

The organisation made a raft of recommendations, including a call for the global community to do more to help people who will lose their homes through climate change.

This includes a call to create legal protections for people who are forced to leave their country because of climate change, and putting together a regional body to map which communities are likely to be worst affected.

It's also pushing for the Australian and New Zealand governments to prioritise investments in agriculture, fisheries, and water sources that are climate resilient, to make sure Pacific communities have access to sustainable local sources.