Climate Change and the Abel Tasman NP

The Abel Tasman National Park is known for its golden beaches, blue waters and the famous coastal tracks, attracting over 250,000 people every year. What you might not be aware of is that the national park is in a vulnerable location, with a high risk of coastal flooding. We were alarmed to hear of the devastating affects that ex-cyclone Fehi had on the park last year when we spoke with the local Department of Conservation (DOC) branch. This kind of extreme weather will happen more and more as the effects of climate change increase. Climate change is no longer a problem of the future - it is here and now and it requires urgent action.

The major storm caused significant damage to the park last year, from coastal erosion and destruction of bridges and tracks, to flooded campgrounds and loss of native bush. The repairs were costly, in excess of $400 000. What can we expect in the future with more frequent extreme weather events and the sea level predicted to rise by 0.5 - 1m by 2100?

Dora from the Nelson Environment Centre interviewed Mark Townsend from DOC and asked what their plans are to prepare Abel Tasman for these challenges. Mark said, ‘We will have to adapt’. He acknowledged the concerning effects of king tides, with swells up to 3 m, causing the damage to the visitor infrastructure and creating safety issues. In response to this, DOC is establishing refuge locations to evacuate people from the low elevation camps as well as relocating some of the camp sites to higher ground in the coming years.

 When the next extreme storm hits, there is a high chance it will strongly affect the well-being of the Abel Tasman National Park. When this does happen, DOC will need a team of volunteers on board. Do not hesitate to contact DOC if you wish to help! In the meantime you can also join one of the numerous volunteering projects that are already happening such as Abel Tasman Birdsong Trust or Project Janszoon. Check out www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/volunteer.

If you are visiting Abel Tasman, you can do your bit to help protect this natural resource. We encourage you to stay on the track, take care with fires and leave the plant and wildlife for others to enjoy. After all, it is in your backyard.

Dora Matejak