A Ruawai leader is taking her community's call to save Kaipara's $1.5 million climate adaptation mahi to the local council.
Ruawai resident and former Kaipara Deputy Mayor Anna Curnow will deliver a "Save Kaipara district's climate adaptation programme" petition to Kaipara District Council's next meeting on 29 November.
As of 14 November, the petition had more than 540 signatures.
"This is about saving Kaipara's climate adaptation work and our Ruawai pilot as an important part of that," Curnow, a Ruawai resident said.
"If the (pilot) is cancelled the people of Ruawai lose the ability to decide for themselves, in a proactive way, how they respond to climate change."
Her petition comes after Kaipara District Council (KDC) politicians on 25 October blocked the key next steps of the Ruawai community climate change adaptive pathways pilot.
"Making an important decision like this for our community without asking the people who are involved, is a very faulty decision," Curnow a co-chair of the pilot's 24-member Ruawai adaptive pathways community panel, said.
"The council hasn't invited the climate adaptation community panel to be part of this."
KDC, Whangārei District Council, Far North District Council and Northland Regional Council jointly chose Ruawai as Northland's first community climate change adaptation pilot site in 2021 after assessing risks and community readiness.
Ruawai is New Zealand's first climate adaptation pilot in a district drainage scheme area.
The community climate change adaptation pilot covers the lives, businesses, marae and homes across more than 8000 hectares of land predominantly at sea level or below. The area is protected from the Northern Wairoa River and Kaipara Harbour by about 70 kilometres of stopbanks.
The pilot is a major feature of Kaipara's climate adaptation work and for wider Northland, providing information and modelling for the region's other councils' developing work in this area.
Curnow started the petition on 5 November after KDC in September cancelled its already-budgeted development of its climate policy and council carbon emissions accounting.
"That opened the door to cancelling all of the climate adaptation work across Kaipara. It would leave vulnerable communities with no support to plan for and address the very real risks faced," Curnow said.
These communities included Baylys Beach, Glinks Gully, Tinopai, Pahi, Paparoa and Mangawhai.
"Climate change impact will continue. What are we going to do to help inform adaption around that if we cancel Ruawai?"
She said community was half way through the about 2.5 year project to decide on how it wanted to adapt to the impacts of climate change locally.
More than a year's work had gone into identifying risks and looking at different communities' tolerance to those risks.
The next step was to break into sub-regions to develop community-led actions to address that risk.
But that step was blocked by KDC councillors in October.
Mayor Jepson said climate change-created sea level rise and managed retreat were not something Ruawai needed to be concerned about.
However, Curnow said she would "prefer to defer to the scientists on this". All the papers the community panel has seen suggest significant risk in Ruawai, she said.
Jepson wants any remaining money from the $1.5 million of already-budgeted KDC funds for climate adaptation, including the Ruawai pilot, to instead go to the $14 million Ruawai-Raupō drainage scheme.
The 100-year-old-plus scheme manages flooding risk through drains across 8700 hectares of at sea level and sometimes below land. Its 70 kilometres of stopbanks are up to 4 metres high.
Jepson said it was better KDC put its money into the scheme - which was already protecting the district as had been the case during Cyclone Gabrielle - rather than the pilot.
But Curnow, who is a past KDC Raupo drainage committee member, said Ruawai's climate adaptation pilot was about more than ditches, drains, stopbanks and floodgates.
She said the scheme did a great job and the pilot was about more than floods.
An example was the local community developing climate adaptation plans for its primary school and college or Ruawai village and its 500 people.
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air