Climate Change & Who Pays?
Thursday, June 26, 2014 at 8:00AM
Bill Barclay

The whole matter of beach erosion raises a range of very important issues that our Council was unwilling to deal with today. The first concerning 'district' or 'local' funding for these projects was alluded to on several occasions. Bold statements were made by Leach in particular supporting the 'district' approach, and as a shot across of the bows of anyone who may dare to question his approach he asked on one occasion the proportion of 'district' funding that went into the Moanataiari restoration umpteen years ago. He was not best pleased to hear from Steve Baker that it was 9% - he should have checked that out before he raised it!

Then there was the time when Baker warned participants of being too hasty in seeking WRC funding for certain of the works based on its legitimate areas of responsibility. Steve pointed out that WRC would rate any such costs on an 'area of benefit' basis - Mercury Bay in other words. That brought about an instant rethink, but it shows that this Council still have not come to terms with important knowledge about how the District operates.

What this all amounts to is that the West Coast, and Thames rate-payers in particular had better start to consider the long term effects of the East Coast erosion situation, because there is every indication that this Council is prepared to institute 'district' charging for erosion mitigation and restoration projects from here-on in. The precedent was established today that will be very hard to pull back, and the cost imposition on our rates over the years ahead will be substantial, and if I am not mistaken, unrelenting. And do not think for one moment that either Thames Councilors, or staff will seek to divert the Council away from instituting this policy. 

I suggest that this issue will become one of the principal decisions to be made at the forthcoming Finance and Revenue Policy deliberations, and that the 'district' policy is already in the process of being developed. The Thames councilors showed no inclination today to dig their heels on on this variation, and I would suggest that 'district' charging of Coastal Erosion Activity is as done a deal as 'district' charging of waste-water during the previous Council - adopted by weight of numbers with no regard to equity or logic. Steve Baker will use the same logic he applied in the previous Finance and Revenue Policy round, with just as damaging an effect on Thames ratepayers as in the case of waste-water. Remember, this is not tsunami we are talking about - simply sea erosion brought about by rising sea-levels, and increasingly predominant nor-Easters.   

The second major issue surrounds climate change, and the sea levels. Does anyone really believe any longer that this is not happening? And does anyone really believe that building more and more 'hard' walls will somehow make it go away, or hold it back. One way or another, the sea will win - not even the entire treasury of this Country has sufficient resources to replicate the Dutch experience and create massive sea-walls and dykes wherever the sea threatens in this country. 

And what are we protecting? Holiday homes for heaven's sake - homes that have been built on land with inherent risk, the cost of protecting same which generally wealthy owners are now determined will spread well beyond their front gate. Make no mistake, Fox and his cohort are determined to drive this through.

The cries for help from the entire Eastern Seaboard will inevitably become louder, and more insistent as time goes on. Sure, the incremental inundation of low lying areas on the West Coast will proceed perceptibly, but we are in no way open to the degradation that awaits those living on exposed Eastern coasts in ever increasing gulps. Not Canute, nor Tony Fox, nor even dare I say it, our all-powerful Mayor will turn that tide. We will become part of the problem unless some strong voices are raised to question this policy creep.      




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