South Dunedin needs to harden up and go pay a visit to the Dutch.
Much of South Dunedin housing will be at sea level or below in just 17 years, according to an Otago academic.
Professor Jim Flynn of Otago University said sea level rise had sped up in recent years, increasing the threat to low-lying housing.
Another expert, however, challenged the credibility of the data underlying that prediction.
A serious flood in June 2015 damaged about 1250 properties, and a report released in November by Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright made it clear the problem of rising sea levels was just beginning.
Prof Flynn, Emeritus Professor in Politics at Otago University, said in a presentation to the council that since the Greenland ice cap starting melting three years ago, the rise had sped up dramatically.
He calculated 1900 houses in South Dunedin within 25cm of the current water level would be flooded by 2034.
That meant South Dunedin would not be able to be defended for long and plans must be made to move residents to higher ground.
About 2700 homes in South Dunedin lie less than 50cm above sea level.
Dunedin mayor Dave Cull said councillors were a little stunned by Prof Flynn’s presentation, and it had heightened their sense of urgency to respond to the situation.
But Antarctic Research Centre director Tim Naish, based at Victoria University, urged caution.
Prof Naish applauded Prof Flynn for raising the urgency of sea level rise, but said the data he was using was not credible.
Global sea level rise for 2014 and 2015 was about 3.5mm, not the more than 7mm in the NASA data presented, he said.
Even if the NASA data was correct, it was too short a time series to say it would necessarily lead to South Dunedin being underwater by 2034.
Prof Naish said the most credible projections still predicted a 30cm rise by 2065.
Look like the science isn’t settled after all.
But seriously, haven’t these snowflakes heard of dikes or levees?
– Radio NZ