Kia ora! Welcome to Future Proof.

 

 

An experimental native garden on the roof of Auckland’s Central City Library. Image credit: Auckland Council.

I watched the Netflix series Sweet Tooth recently, and it was neat to see the buildings and streets of Auckland – where the show was filmed – draped in more greenery than usual. OK, I get that it’s meant to signify the post-apocalyptic state of the city… but facades cloaked with vegetation might also be in our climate-positive future.

Take Singapore, for example. In the dense, tropical metropolis, multi-storey buildings are clothed in lush vertical gardens and green roofs in an effort to keep interiors cool, reduce the urban heat effect and quell air pollution. New developments are incentivised to incorporate such greenery – not just for the practical benefits, but also because it’s aesthetic and enhances residents’ connection with nature. Singapore wasn’t always like this: 95% of its original vegetation was cleared following the city’s founding in 1819. It’s taken decades of careful urban planning and a strong vision for a “city in nature” to achieve its status as one of the greenest cities in the world. Today, Singapore has 47% park and garden coverage. 

Closer to home, in T?maki Makaurau, Auckland Council installed its largest living roof atop the Central City Library last year. More than 2,000 plants were propagated by Ng?ti Wh?tua ?r?kei and planted out on the roof. A year on, the Council says the hardy natives are “thriving”. The living roof is being closely monitored by Council ecologists and researchers from the University of Auckland, to assess how it’s performing through gnarly weather conditions. Results will reveal just how much rainfall this “living infrastructure” can soak up (possibly 5-10 litres per square metre), and which native plants are most suited to high rise life.

In Wellington, architecture PhD candidate Maggie McKinnon is testing out our native plants’ ability to cling on in cascading vertical gardens, battered by the rugged winds that are typical of the capital. She’s also investigating whether hanging gardens could benefit and boost urban biodiversity, especially birds, as well as how the greenery might even be able to buffer said wind. The RNZ podcast Our Changing World interviewed McKinnon about her project. And Your Home and Garden has a DIY guide for creating hanging gardens, if you’re a keen gardener with wall space to spare.

Perhaps we can craft better green spaces at ground level too: Professor Rod Barnett, head of the Wellington School of Architecture, argues that gardens should become “living labs” where researchers could figure out how to boost the carbon-capturing prowess of suburban backyards.

But as New Zealand cities build up, it might be useful to take a leaf from Singapore and incorporate nature into denser designs. I’m looking forward to a future city that’s less concrete jungle, more lush biodiverse paradise.

 

 

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Environmentalists say the government’s draft Fisheries Industry Transformation Plan is a subsidy for the industry, and appears to breach UN and World Trade Organisation anti-subsidy stances. But minister of oceans and fisheries Rachel Brooking disputes the characterisation, labelling the funding as “transitional support”, Andrew Bevin reports on Newsroom. The criticism comes as the government mulls whether to introduce stricter measures to reduce seabird bycatch in longline fishery. Hundreds of seabirds, like the “nationally critical” Antipodean albatross, are killed every year after being inadvertently caught by fishers, but Fisheries NZ says the proposed stricter measures are “not a priority”, Isobel Ewing reports for Newshub. In other ocean wildlife news, the International Whaling Commission estimates there are 48 M?ui dolphins left – not 54 as estimated by the government, Stuff’s Andrea Vance reports.

 

 

Last week the government announced it would help councils buy out owners of flood-affected properties. Around 400-500 properties in Auckland are being considered for managed retreat, while preliminary maps categorising impacted land in Hawke’s Bay have also been released. The latter has angered the small community of Tangoio, where a hap? have had their homes “red-zoned” while a nearby beachside development will not have to retreat. For another perspective from native lands in Louisiana, this moving short doco from Grist tells the story of two members of the Pointe-au-Chien tribe, who have already lost 90% of their tribal land to sea level rise. Despite this, they’re staying put. “It’s a lot to ask somebody to move whenever you don’t know the whole story about how we live, what we eat, and our connection to the land.”

 

 

In late March, the UN ruled that the International Court of Justice could provide opinion on the legal consequences for countries failing to take climate action. It was a huge win for many, but especially for the Pacific Islands Students Fighting Climate Change group, who had conceived the idea. The group’s president, Cynthia Houniuhi, recounts their journey from a classroom in Vanuatu to the world stage. And in Teen Vogue, several young Pacific activists from the Pacific Climate Warriors group are profiled.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Image credit: Janelle Koch/Pauline Dusseau.

To finish this issue, biosecurity divers in Fiordland recently had the encounter of a lifetime, when they crossed paths with a hoodwinker sunfish (Mola tecta). Only scientifically described in 2017, footage of this sunfish species is rare and has New Zealand sunfish expert Marianne Nyegaard excited, as 1News reports. I interviewed Nyegaard for an episode of Our Changing World last year. Have a listen as she recounts the discovery of this enigmatic species. 

Here’s to mola wicked wildlife sightings,

Ellen

 

 

Got some feedback about Future Proof or topics you’d like covered? Get in touch with me at futureproof@thespinoff.co.nz

 

 

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