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  • Writer's pictureSarah Brosnahan

Climate change hits different when it’s lapping at your feet

The floods experienced in Auckland and much of the north island over the last few weeks are a stark reminder that climate change is here and the time to act is now. Years of inaction both globally and locally mean that events like this are no longer one in 100 years, but will become annual occurrences. While this is the worst that Auckland has experienced so far, it’s not too dissimilar to floods in Tarawhiti and Nelson over the last 18 months and it won’t be the last any of us see of this kind of devastation.

It’s no surprise that in the deluge, the city experienced a significant amount of food loss. The images of onions being washed out of their paddocks in Pukekohe were devastating. Not only will we not be able to eat those onions over the coming weeks, but the farmers have also lost their incomes and the fertile soil has washed away. I guess time will tell what impact this will have on overall supply and especially on prices. There have also been reports that the floods will impact winter crops grown in the region such as broccoli and cauliflower crops which aren’t even in the ground yet. The onions are one of the images that stick in my mind, not only due to the waste but the flow-on effects it will have on the food supply in months to come. This article by Radio New Zealand talks about some of the challenges our growers are facing as a result of changes to our climate. In the article, they interview a Pukekohe grower impacted by the floods. Pukekohe grows around 26% of Aotearoa’s domestic produce which gives some insight into the potential reach this could have not only to the Auckland region but nationally.

Photo credit: RNZ website (supplied by Stan Clark)

At the other end of the supply chain, several supermarkets across the city were flooded. The most notable images were from Pak'nSave Wairau Park on Auckland's North Shore, where water appeared to be above knee height. This of course will result in significant food waste due to contamination and damage.

Photo credit: NZ Herald website (sourced from Facebook)

Early estimates are putting the financial cost of this event up to half a billion dollars. However, this event also comes with a cost to the planet with water-damaged furniture, clothing, other household items and sludge all heading to landfill. The volume and contamination of these items mean there’s little choice for a lot of them.

The floods have acted as a timely reminder of what we do and why we do it. Luckily, the Foodprint team were relatively unaffected, but the experience of living through our first climate event is now etched in our minds forever.

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