United Future's Gordon Copeland is calling on the government to develop a resettlement plan to help Pacific peoples affected by rising sea levels due to climate change, pointing out that
At present there is very little planning in place for the resettlement of people from low-lying countries such as the Tokelaus, Tuvalu and Kiribati, which are all likely to disappear in the event of a rise in sea-levels.
He's not joking about this. Tuvalu is mostly underwater every spring tide now, the highest point of Tokelau is a mere two metres above the high tide mark, and Kiribati is in the same boat. If sea levels rise by the amount they are expected to, 110,000 people are going to need a new home. And so far, we take a mere 75 people a year from Kiribati and Tuvalu under stringent conditions as part of the Pacific Access Category.
In the case of Tokelau, we have a special responsibility. While moving towards self-government, it is still part of New Zealand, and each and every Tokelauan is a New Zealand citizen, as kiwi as you or I. They thus have an absolute right to come here. More importantly, if Gisborne suddenly disappeared beneath the waves, the government would spare no effort in resettling its inhabitants and ensuring they could make a new start. We can do no less for Tokelau if the worst happens.
In the case of Tuvalu and Kiribati, the argument is a simple humanitarian one: they need our help. Australia is unwilling to take them (hell, they're happy to let people drown if it means they won't change the average skin tone of their fine, white nation), so as the only other country in the South Pacific capable of doing so, we will have to.