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District Plan Review Committee - Final!

There were a number of extremely interesting decisions arrived at yesterday at the final meeting of the District Plan Review Committee. These decisions were the major ‘sticking points’ that have been left until the last moment for resolution, and they are quite far reaching – they go to the final meeting of this Council along with the final report of the Committee for adoption on 25 September prior to going to public consultation.

When 'the rubber meets the tarmac’, reality sets in and the well telegraphed attitudes of certain councillors needed to be taken into account before the final Report was set in concrete. Mayor Leach and CEO Hammond came to the Committee before it commenced its work to make strong representations on certain matters which had concerned then in earlier drafts.

Destination Coromandel had raised major concerns with Mayor Leach concerning the stated intention to raise the B & B barrier (and all other forms of accommodation short of motel or equivalent) from 6 to 12 beds. The reaction from the industry had been extreme and the likelihood of that they would “fill the bleachers” at any Hearing was enough to see a back-down, but not before some ridiculous ‘hair-splitting’ over beds, mattresses, toilets, and weekly 21st birthday parties at some ‘Book-a-Bach venues up and down the Coast. Decision – back to 6, with improved compliance measures.

Water Tanks – No compulsion was the order of the day – Only Hoadley opted for compulsion. David Taipari showed a surprising preference for more liberal interpretations on just about every item. He is no threat to those who would like to see a loosening of regulations, rather than tightening. Decision – no compulsion on new sub-divisions, even as a response to the need to offset peak demand without major infrastructure. The response was gutless in my view, and indicative of confused thinking and objectives. The Mayor has stated his preference for alternative tankage in the past but did not seem to push the issue on this occasion.

Heritage – The most interesting – Whitianga wants less, and after some fairly luke-warm protections were discussed, the demands of the majority to remove all protections for the Whitianga Heritage Arae were followed - take that Dr McEwan! Although there aere stil a small number of heritage buildings specifically identified in Whitianga, The whole idea of heritage stopping anyone from doing anything at Whitianga is clearly an anathema, and reflects the general personality of the place.

Coromandel wants more while Thames still doesn’t seem to know what it wants. They have both ended up with a considerablke number of protected buildings/sites (although some in Coromandel want more to be retained/added) and both Coromandel and Thames have significantly large Heritage areas. In both Coromandel and Thames strong measures to protect existing fabric, and replacement of heritage by heritage have been adopted.

Future Coastal Protection This was always going to be the ‘biggie’, and so it turned out. The Committee had two peer reviews of the original Report by Jim Dahm who was the expert employed to provide a set of recommendations. The argument between the two 'peer' experts over appropriateness of the so called Bruun Rule was instructive. One (Dr Tom Shand of Tonkin & Taylor) said it was “good practice methodology for the eastern Coromandel”. The other (Dr Mike Hilton of Otago University) said it was “discredited and too simplistic for the Coromandel”. Goodness gracious – the whole set of recommendations by Jim Dahn were based on this Rule, and he provided a vigorous defence of its use. I am not sure where that leaves us, but in the end, the Committee agreed to adopt the following:

  •  Retain the dotted FCPL (Future Coastal Protection Area) line - if possible the fill could be faded landward.
  •  Refine the text to to confirm the purpose of the FCPA as an area where a site specific assessment of future coastal erosion risk is needed for any development intensification over and above the zones permitted and controlled activities.
  • The FCPA should be extended to include Council reserves and stream mouths in urban areas, as these are important public assets that should have hazard management.
  • The FCPA should be re-calculated to assume a sea level rise of 1m over the next 100 years, to better give effect to the NZ Coastal Policy Statement, policies 24 and 27. These policies also require the other climate change effects to be factored in, as Dr Hilton says. This information is not available yet, but may be remodelled in the future.
  •  Acknowledge that the FCPA can be moved seaward as beaches become protected from long-term coastal erosion, or landward if future data, modelling or site-specific assessment indicates a worsening risk.
  • The Council will need to assess future hazard implications from climate change on west coast beaches and harbours. This will be a lengthy scientific and planning process, and cannot be worked into the Proposed Plan’s timeframes and resources. It should be a later plan change.

The whole situation is fraught with anxious property owners doing everything in their power to protect their investment in the face of lines on map – solid, dotted, serrated, hatched or otherwise. Council is at risk if it does nothing and indeed it is a mandated requirement. There is no way round it – the owners can argue the toss till the cows come home, but whatever happens, there is increased risk of erosion and ingress arising from rising sea levels, let alone tsunami risk – where no-one appears willing to venture.

In fact, Sam Marshall (Whitianga Area Manager) turned up to plea for the Committee to commit the Wells farm (next door to existing development and north of the main town) to re-zoning – principally in order that future road and Stormwater reserves can be created now. Discussion about the tsunami risk of this area faded out and I saw no desire around the table to deal with what has been declared as the second worst tsunami risk area in the entire country – ho-hum!




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