Sunday, July 15, 2007

Let nature take its course?

Around 300 homes are reported to still await the reconnection of power after last week's storm ( a reminder to those who oppose every new power station project that generating power is a good thing), and no doubt discussion on storm damage will continue, as will argument over Helen Clark's craven suggestion that towns relocate. Owen McShane from the Climate Science Coalition offers an intelligent response to the storm and to Clark's politically motivated stupidity:
"Before we rush to forcibly relocate whole communities – especially if they are to be relocated against their will – we should take some time to consider alternative responses; especially ones which are less reminiscent of Louis XIV's extravagant exercises at Versailles" says McShane. He listed some suggested alternatives as follows:

First: Many of the knee jerk responses assume these storms and floods are due to man-made climate change and that they will get worse and more frequent. We should examine the evidence. Certainly the idea that rising sea levels will make matters worse is simply not proven, nor even likely, for most of New Zealand. While our planners look anxiously towards the sea the floods come down from the hills and rivers behind them.
Second: Maybe we should consider re-establishing the Drainage Boards in some way. Prior to the passing of the RMA these boards operated throughout rural New Zealand with only one objective – the proper management of catchment areas. They made sure the stop-banks were in place and the drains and waterways were kept clear. There is no longer anyone in local government with that single focus.
Third: Don't assume that we should always "allow nature to take its course." Many older councillors complain that when they raise the old drainage board issues about maintaining stop-banks and drainage channels the staff come back with reports saying "nature must take its course." Such a philosophy would not be well received in the Netherlands. If they were to let nature take its course the whole country would have to relocate to higher ground – and they simply haven't got any.
Fourth: People, communities and councils should be encouraged to regard this as an insurance issue. People at risk should be encouraged to negotiate directly with their insurers to see what steps they can take to reduce their risk of damage. For example it will normally prove cheaper to raise a house a few feet than to relocate either the whole dwelling or the resident family.
Fifth: Explore the technologies available for new dwellings. The Dutch are increasing their "habitable" areas dramatically by developing "floating houses" which rise and fall with flood water. The cellular concrete floors are buoyant and fixed in place by bronze rings over driven piles. Flexible connections to sewage etc allow the whole structure to "rise with the tide" and settle down as the floods drain away. New Orleans is looking into the many systems available. Read about these floating homes by clicking here. Rather than "letting nature take its course" the Dutch have decided "To go with the flow".Maybe we should too.
Sixth: People have always opted to live in flood plains or under volcanoes and most are able to make up their own minds regarding the costs and benefits and the risks. If someone wants to live in a hazardous area they should be allowed to contract with the council, and anyone else involved, to absolve all other parties of any liability which might arise from their decision. It's their risk and their choice. However, we should have no patience with those who build in such areas contrary to advise and then claim aid and charity when their house is destroyed. And we should not allow foolish siting to put other structures at risk.

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