IT'S BEEN a hell of a fortnight here on Anzac Pde. My old house sits high at the back of the section, above the floodline - at least this time. It's a horribly vivid vantage point for witnessing the devastation of my neighbours' more low-lying houses.
There is a lot I'm glad of. I'm glad nobody died in this record flood. I'm glad of our local Fire Service: they've been capable, calm and kind. I'm glad of the emergency personnel and volunteers who travelled from around the region and even Christchurch and Dunedin to help us. I'm glad to live in a community that rallies when people are suffering; I'll not forget the stranger who walked through my gate, boots on, shovel in hand and asked simply, "How can I help?". Thank you.
I'm not glad of John Key coming to visit, mouthing platitudes and hedging about how much money central government might contribute to the cost of clean-up. I would have been outside the Civil Defence centre when our Prime Minister arrived on his PR visit, except on that Saturday I was picking through the apocalyptic mess that was my food gardens.
I would have held a sign that read: Dear Mr Key: this is what climate change looks like.
There's considered scientific opinion that global warming is driving the increasingly extreme weather events being experienced in New Zealand and around the world: record-breaking heatwaves, droughts and floods, more frequent storms and hurricanes. In the cautious speech of scientists, "The evidence from multiple studies ... indicates that human influence has changed the frequency of high-impact temperature and precipitation extremes." (Stott et al, 2014, page S1: http://bit.ly/1Hx5wkp).
Whanganui was lashed with 88mm of rain on Saturday, June 20, 136mm in 48 hours - more than we historically received in the entire month of June.
Historical averages seem to be useless now as predictors of meteorological behaviour. (Just like classic dates such as Labour Day for planting out one's summer garden.) Phrases like a "one in 85-year flood" can mislead us into a false sense of security. Some of the worst affected houses were flooded back in 2004.
And what is our Government doing? Dragging its feet. Countries will meet in Paris in December to set a new climate change agreement. Before then, New Zealand needs to announce how we will contribute to reducing emissions.
The Government must commit to a global and New Zealand zero carbon target by 2050, if not sooner.
It should also place an immediate moratorium on fossil fuel exploration and stop propping up the fossil fuel industry with subsidies, tax-breaks and funding.
And we need an independent climate commission to ensure we meet our targets.
New Zealand leaders have, in the past, acted with guts and integrity and led the world. Is our current government capable of acting on behalf of all New Zealanders, including those not yet born? I would be glad to be surprised.
-R.K. Rose is a fermenter, fomenter and gardener with a liking for permaculture thinking.