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New Zealand's longest-running online daily news and commentary publication, now in its 25th year. The opinion pieces presented here are not purported to be fact but reasonable effort is made to ensure accuracy.

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Enjoy paradise while it lasts

29 October 2020

New Zealand enjoys an enviable latitude on the face of the planet.

It's close enough to the equator that the winters are not too harsh but far enough away that we don't all get heat-stroke during the summer.

Being surrounded by acres of ocean also means we avoid the extremes of a more continental climate, the thermal mass of all that water smoothing out the seasonal peaks and troughs that would otherwise occur.

We're also cool enough in winter that many of the "nasties" that are found overseas, such as snakes, disease-carrying mosquitos and such have found it impossible to survive here, even if they made the journey across all that seawater.

All these things combine to make us the Goldilocks nation. Not too hot, not too cold.

But, thanks to climate change, things are about to get a whole lot different.

This month alone we've seen a long succession of days where the temperature has risen to as much as 15 degrees above average for this time of the year.

Unless you're a hard-core skier, you probably also enjoyed a much milder winter than we've had in the past with a dearth of snow and only a few brief antactic blasts to remind us that it really was winter.

Whilst much of this can be described as just "weather", we can't avoid the realisation that weather trends eventually become climate and that climate is changing.

It's widely predicted that as New Zealand warms, it is inevitable that the composition of our flora and fauna will change. Warmer tempertures mean that invasive pest species will find Godzone "survivable" and may even prosper, in an evironment where they have few if any predators.

We're already seeing this effect in other countries around the world where pest species are moving to higher latitudes as those zones warm. When those pests are insects capable of carrying disease, those diseases also spread.

Now we remain fortunate that we have a huge moat around New Zealand but, as we've seen in the past, it's often only a matter of time before things manage to cross that water, either by themselves or as stowaways on imported goods or transport craft.

In 50 years' time, New Zealand could be far less the South Pacific paradise we enjoy today, if various mosquitos, poisonous insect and reptiles manage to set up home here.

Even our horticulture and agriculture industries could take a hit from invasive species that bring disease or attack our crops.

I guess the real question is: what can we do to mitigate this risk?

The reality is probably "bugger all".

Yes we can tighten border controls but that only reduces risk, it doesn't elminate it.

Given that one of the largest reservoirs of poisoinous insects and reptiles is just to the west of our islands, it's not unthinkable that we could see all manner of tiny but venomous or disease-carrying creatures picked up by cyclonic weather systems, carried across the Tasman and plonked on our green and fertile fields.

Ah well, at least most of Aardvark's readers won't have to worry about such future peril but won't someone think of the children? :-D

I'd like to get some feedback from readers. What do YOU think the best and worst aspects of inevitable climate change will be for New Zealand and its population?

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