22 Jun 2015

Opposition: Climate-resilient infrastructure needed

6:49 pm on 22 June 2015

Infrastructure needs to be more resilient in the face of climate change, opposition parties say.

Aerial photo of Waitotara. Whanganui flood

An aerial photo shows flooding in the township of Waitotara in South Taranaki. Photo: PowerCo

They said recent extreme weather events had exposed how vulnerable the nation's roading and water systems were, and that they needed to be re-designed.

Green MP James Shaw

James Shaw Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Green Party co-leader James Shaw said the weather events were most likely a result of climate change, which meant there would be more of them in future.

He said infrastructure would need to change to cope.

"There will be some roads that we either need to lift or actually just move," Mr Shaw said.

He added that a small rise in sea level could drastically change the engineering of some stormwater systems.

Mr Shaw said if there was a national infrastructure plan in place, then long-term decisions could be made.

New Zealand First climate change spokesperson Denis O'Rourke said the Government had under-invested in basic infrastructure for far too long.

"There's a very long list of things to do and we're not making enough progress with it."

Mr O'Rourke said local government and government agencies needed a more robust set of standards to work towards to make sure infrastructure was resilient.

Labour MP Megan Woods during caucas run April 2015.

Megan Woods Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Labour Party climate change spokesperson Megan Woods said the damage to infrastructure from extreme weather events was falling on cash-strapped local councils.

She said the three waters that were below ground were particularly vulnerable - stormwater, drinking water and sewerage.

Ms Woods said they were incredibly expensive to fix.

Prime Minister John Key said it was to soon to say whether the weather events were symptomatic of climate change.

But he said an assessment of infrastructure could be needed.

"You can only expect councils to build the sort of infrastructure that can support what would be a little more than a normalised event but not at the really outer edge."

Mr Key said if councils were to build for those real extreme events then the issue might be the costs that that might put on them.

Labour said it was about time the Government connected the dots between climate change and weather events, and planned accordingly.