British eco-migrants flee to New Zealand
New Zealand is seeing its first influx of British eco-migrants, environmental refugees who have quit the UK because they fear the long-term impacts of climate change. The country’s islands, renowned for their temperate climate, clean environment and low population, have often been put forward by greens as potential “lifeboats” for a world suffering serious warming. Recently, James Lovelock, the scientist and creator of the Gaia theory, said in his new book, The Vanishing Face of Gaia, that New Zealand could be one of the world’s last havens as climate change fundamentally changes the planet. Such effects are expected to take years or decades to happen but some families are already trying to anticipate them. Among them are Lizzy and Mike Larmer-Cottle who have moved their family from London to Albany, half an hour north of Auckland on North Island, surrounded by rolling hills and beaches. Britain’s recent climate of summer droughts and warm, wet winters was becoming alarming, said Lizzy. She added: “England was just having more and more flooding — if that continues, half of it is going to be underwater.” The couple stress there were other factors too, such as lower traffic, less pollution and cheaper property. Before moving to New Zealand their sons Milo, 10, and Theo, 12, had, for example, never been able to ride their bikes on local roads. They are, however, part of a rising tide of Britons heading for the New Zealand. Statistics NZ, which collects data for the country’s government, said more than 18,000 British residents moved there last year alone. Among recent arrivals was John Zamick who also believes climate change will tip Britain into long-term environmental decline. The businessman, who now co-directs a biodiesel company in Nelson, a town on South Island, points to East Anglia, where rainfall is now so low it is classed as semi-arid, while its coasts are threatened by rising sea levels. What such eco-migrants have in common is not so much a fear of Britain becoming warmer but that climate change could destabilise the global economy, causing shortages of food. At the Copenhagen climate science conference earlier this month, scientists set out the latest research on how climate change could affect crops. This showed that, as heat and water shortages took hold, many equatorial regions in Africa and Asia would become unable to grow enough food, creating global shortages of staples like wheat and rice. Zamick said New Zealand's low population density, agricultural independence and availability of farmland were all prime attractions, along with its English-speaking population. Americans have also spotted New Zealand’s potential. Adam Fier and his wife Misbah Sadat moved their family from Maryland in the United States to New Zealand late last month. Fier, a computer security expert who used to work at Nasa, told the Washington Post the decision was made because of his two girls. “I am not going to predict how the climate might change and how it might affect New Zealand,” Fier said. “But quite honestly, I feel in 100 years, one of my daughters is still going to be alive and this planet is going to be a mess.” Scientists agree that New Zealand is likely to be more resilient to any global warming than many other countries — but that could lead to problems with immigration. Dr Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at Britain’s Met Office, said: “A lot of countries in temperate zones could come under pressure to take eco-migrants.” Immigration specialists say climate is an increasingly important issue for Britons trying to emigrate. James Hardy shared such views. He used to live in lush Buckinghamshire but became increasingly concerned at how he and his family might cope on such a crowded island if the global climate underwent sharp changes. Three years ago he moved to New Zealand with his wife and their three children. “New Zealand has land, New Zealand has wind, New Zealand has a far more sustainable climate,” he said.