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South Dunedin sinking: report

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 19/07/2016

Rising sea levels could threaten homes in South Dunedin and bold decisions are needed to minimise the risk, a new report says.

A study compiled from seven years of data from the Otago Regional Council has found rising water levels in the low-lying suburb are increasing the risk of parts becoming permanently flooded.

"Because there is already a shallow water table beneath South Dunedin, an increase in groundwater levels will eventually result in occasional and possibly permanent surface ponding on parts of the area", ORC chief Peter Bodeker said.

About 2700 homes in South Dunedin are below 50cm above sea level and the area is densely populated, with 10,000 residents.

Unlike most of Dunedin, the area was built on "soft, silty soils" which were in 1800 tidal wetlands, Mr Bodeker said.

The OCR will present its findings to the City Dunedin Council on Wednesday in hopes of starting a conversation about how to reduce the long-term risk.

"While this further work is important, it must be the catalyst for bold decisions about risk management, rather than these reports just gathering dust on a shelf," Mr Bodeker said.

"We are also firm in our belief that planning for South Dunedin's future management is an immediate priority."

The report comes after a flood in June 2015 damaged more than 1200 properties in the area.

Parliamentary Environment Commissioner Jan Wright said rising sea levels made the area "a slowly unfolding red zone".

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