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Today's Meeting

Nothing else matters in regard to today's meeting other than the Annual Plan debate on district funding of the Mercury Bay erosion. It is a critical decision, and showed clearly the utter naivete of the new Thames councillors who demonstrated that they had almost most no clue as to precedent, nor how to deal with the hostility of the Three Musketeers from Whitianga.

McLean, Fox and Kelly (Board Chair) dominated the discussion, and in particular, McLean deliberately attempted re-write a resolution from last year that provided interim district funding for immediate erosion control. This was a deviation from standing Council policy that this work is 'locally funded.' The words "domineering," and "bullying" came immediately to mind. 

Attempts are being made, as outlined in the post below on the Annual Plan, to move the responsibility for this work to 'district funding,' for obvious reasons, and clearly, our intrepid trio are determined to have 'interim' changed to 'permanent,' and thus create a precedent that will benefit Mercury Bay rate-payers forever.

Both Whangamata and Tairua representatives at the table expressed real concern at this move, and indicated that the Mercury Board representatives will not have it so easy at the 'closed door workshop' tomorrow that has been called to discuss the deferred section of the Resolution, but I suspect that will only last until they can see the advanages of the change to their own needs. Here is the 'deferment' section::

"Defers a decision on the Mercury Bay Coastal erosion programme to the Long Term Plan discussions within the framework of a district-wide coastal management strategy"

After an excruciating debate, again dominated by McLean/Fox, and during which the unforgivable excuse "un-afford-ability" was proffered, Mayor Sandra negotiated a extension of the current 'interim' policy until the end on June. This will enable the continuation of the current stalled works  at a 'district' cost of $360,000, until final resolution. Note that this is the first time since the Eastern Seaboard Wastewater scandal that I have heard the 'unaffordable' mantra used at the Council table. 

McLean tried desperately to get immediate acceptance of the 'permanent district solution,' but fortunately Governance Manager, Angela Jane demurred, and pointed out that it may well require 'consultation,' and at least a further Council meeting to confirm whatever is decided at tomorrow's Workshop. It will have to come back to the May meeting to be incorporated into the 2017/18 Annual Plan. McLean would have known this, and hence his attempt to alter hsitory, and the wording of the 2016 resolution. 

I am not hopeful of any solution acceptable to our rate-payers - I talked to Sally Christie and Rex Simpson who both appeard to be under the sway of McLean. Strat and Tony Brljevich appeared wide awake to what was taking place, and I suspect Mayor Sandra likewise. Fox/McLean will not get it all their own way tomorrow, but they are so dominant, that it will be difficult to avoid a resolution that is essentially disadvantageous to our interests. 

Rex Simpson's view is that we have 'eqivalent' erosion problems at Manaia and Waiomu, and possibly elsewhere - exactly the rationale that Fox and McLean want to push. Tairua, Pauanui and Whangamata want their share of 'district' funding and likewise every other settlement on the East Coast. The Trio won't mind their assistance to get trhe motion through. 

I can do no more than bring this issue to your attention. If you are concerned, then you need to contact those who will vote on this issue on your behalf - Simpson, Christie and Peters are the Thames councillors. A call to Sandra won't do any harm - she is political animal through and through, and will react, particularly if it comes down to her casting vote where she should normally support the status quo - local funding, but I would expect her to seek a compromise that will avoid setting a precedent. 

 This is the most important issue arising in our Annual Plan, but there are others that I will deal with in due course - particularly that related to our almost certain 5 - 6% rate increase. Steve Baker reverted back to his age-old 'delayed-capital-works' explanation to allay concerns about increases, but the Zoom-Zone Dry Court revision, and current storm damage are moving targets that will most likely kick existing anticipated rate hikes to touch. The May meeting will surely provide more up-to-date figures. 




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Reader Comments (6)

Sorry Bill but you are displaying a worrisome lack of strategic thinking on this issue. As I have pointed out to you before, issues with coastal erosion but more importantly with inundation due to sea level rise is not a problem isolated to the east coast of the peninsula.

A quick look at the inundation tool on the Regional Council Website will quickly confirm for you that most of the low-lying urban areas on the peninsula at risk are in fact on the West Coast. Thames in particular has quite large parts of the town which are less than half a metre above sea level. Small communities on the Thames Coast and around Coromandel are also vulnerable. Crucial road links to the north and south of Thames are thru very low lying areas. The sewage plant and airfield are in flood zones.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to work out that the $1 million odd spent on coastal erosion on the East Coast to save a few sand dunes is pin money compared to the costs which we will all have to face due to not only erosion, sea level rise in the next few decades.

When the costs really start to escalate on the West Coast to either attempt to protect communities and infrastructure, or to engage in a managed retreat, I suggest that we will be crying out for financial assistance to be made on a district wide basis rather than a narrow parochial East versus West basis

April 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

Thanks for the lecture Denis, but I take the contrary position that my thinking is specifically strategic for a Council considering the requirements of its LTP out to 2028. It is currently mandated to plan within that time-frame alone.

A close examination of the relative risk on the WRC inundation maps shows that a 1.8m to 2.2m increase (end of century by most estimates, but admittedly retreating), will result in life becoming almost untenable over much of the built Peninsula – both East and West, regardless of the funding base.

I simply do not accept that we should, or need to be looking out that far when determining the relative liability for erosion that may or may not be due to sea level rise – the scale of recent storms surely illustrates that. The far greater risk in my estimate is that provided by a Kermadec Trench tsunami that could well wipe Whitianga, and quite possibly other settlements off the map.

I simply do not accept that it is our responsibility on the West Coast to contribute o the maintenance of the East Coast beach amenities (and protect imprudently sited houses) as argued by McLean/Fox. Sure we are facing a sea-level rise, but that is for future councils to progressively deal with over time.

It is for those reasons that I reject your argument Denis – you may be concerned about inundation, but that was not the basis of the argument about beach defences that I heard forcefully put today in council by McLean and Fox in particular. And forget about $1m – that is simply the beginning of that recurrent nightmare.

And Denis, it ill behoves you to characterise my post a “narrow parochial East versus West” – surely over-used in regard to the Eastern Seaboard wastewater scheme that ended up costing Thames rate-payers an arm and a leg.

April 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBill Barclay

The failure by local regional and central government politicians and their advisors to look beyond 10 years or worse still just a 3 year election cycle is precisely why the NZ and global response to climate change has been an abject disaster. Jonathan Boston has recently commented on this short term ism -

The proposition that it is up to future Councils to deal with climate change is not just reckless but legally wrong.

It's reckless because the adverse effects of climate change are already upon us – whether it be more wildfires, coastal erosion, storm surges or severe storms. Many would argue that more than 2° of warming is already "baked in" to the climate system and that almost every nation has proven itself incapable of taking the radical steps necessary. Others argue that we can still take steps to mitigate the worst effects. Regardless of these arguments what councils can and must do is make sure that we plan for the changes to our environment which are inevitably coming due to climate change.

The proposition is legally wrong because the 2010 New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS) require the District and Regional plans to identify coastal hazards, and to restrict subdivision, use and development within areas subject to coastal hazards over a 100 year timeframe, Those hazards include storm surges, erosion AND inundation/sea level rise from climate change. Note the 100 year time frame – which takes us out to 2110. - The NZCPS requires the Council to identify hazards zones and restrict development within them "as soon as practicable". Seven years have passed and the Council and WRC have been dragging the chain compared to other areas. The best they have managed in 7 years to to identify set backs for coastal erosion in a few locations - almost all on the east coast, but nothing relating to inundation due to sea level rise. Unlike Northland, -
or Dunedin, and Christchurch for example where comprehensive studies have been completed and hazard zones for BOTH erosion AND inundation due to sea level rise have been identified on planning maps, and policies established about set backs, floor levels and relocatable buildings etc. The public in those regions have been consulted, are informed about hazard areas and can plan land purchases and development accordingly. Meanwhile the public in our District remain blissfully ignorant of these hazards, and the WRC and TCDC must be in breach (or close to it ) regarding their legal obligations under the NZCPS to act "as soon as practicable ". It's time for both councils to end the foot dragging and evasion of its obligations and get these inundation hazard zones identified, mapped and with appropriate policies articulated. If this means an immediate Variation of its District Plan then so be it.

On the issue of "imprudent location of houses" again the suggestion that this is just an east coast problem doesn't square with reality. Consider the houses at Moanataiari, and some of those located at Tararu, te Puru, Waiomu, Te Mata, Tapu and Coromandel - built on low-lying river deltas or swamps or reclaimed with mine tailings. Some are just as susceptible to storm surges and erosion as those identified as being at risk on the East Coast. Have we forgotten the devastating sea flooding of Moanataiari so soon? And should some of these properties be eroded by the sea – which could happen at any time – will West Coast ratepayers be happy to foot the entire bill (in probably fruitless attempts) to protect them, or would they rather this be a districtwide funding matter? Or what if low-lying parts of Grahamstown and Moanataiari get the South Dunedin rising ground/sea water problem making some of those properties uninhabitable? – with the added problem for Moanataiari that the upwelling soil is contaminated with arsenic? Should mitigation or retreat be a local or district funding matter? Dunedin City Council has at least undertaken serious studies of the risk of sea level/groundwater rise to South Dunedin. But with an equivalent risk in and around Thames and elewhere, our Council pretends there is not a problem or it can wait for some future hapless Council to deal with.

April 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

It does seem that district wide funding would be equitable if the issue of inundation had been sensible debated on a (likely regional affect basis.
Certainly the whole of our sea coast is venerable so that any policy adopted ought to be have been formulated on the basis that all coastal settlements will be affected and therefore preventative works initiated across the whole peninsula; rather than the east coast kicking off a bidding war because they are the first to experience the early symptoms of climate change.
Affordability becomes a critical consideration, especially for west coast residents, who I daresay are (relatively) poorer than their east coast counterparts. To that extent, it is conceivable that we on the west coast would likely be bigger beneficiaries of district wide funding simply because we are less able to afford the uber costly solutions that consultants are likely to come up with.
East Coast politicians appear to appreciate that they have a limited window of opportunity to scoop up available funding for their mitigation options before the TCDC falls into bankruptcy. Thames has already been there - must we endure it again because of east coast opportunism?
It (perhaps) may be that it is our politicians who need to be a little less parochial.
The issue of funding equity ought to be considered on the basis of proper Peninsula wide policy, not on a 'first in, best dressed' basis.

April 5, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

"The issue of funding equity ought to be considered on the basis of proper Peninsula wide policy, not on a 'first in, best dressed' basis." Agreed Russell. And not just funding -- What are the District-wide policies to determine which public or private properties or assets or infrastructure get protection and which are not. Policies to prevent development in coastal hazard zones? Should hard protection structures be used ? Only for infrastructure of regional or national significance?

Answer -- none of this vital policy formation has been done.

April 6, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

I did not seek to expand this argument into a wide examination of all the macro issues surrounding climate change and who should pay. My post was simply an attempt to dispute the blatant attempt by certain East Coast Councillors to change an established Council policy from local to district funding of beach protection (capital works), and restoration (maintenance).

I am not quite sure how this was ‘high-jacked’ into a debate about the much wider climate change and inundation issues from whatever cause over a much longer time-frame than was ever contemplated in my post, but it happened and so be it.

I do have to agree with Denis regarding the failure at both WRC and TCDC to deal with the implementation of Coastal Hazard Zones – a failure brought about I believe by the threats of litigation emanating from those who consider their asset values unfairly diminished. There is major work to be done in this regard.

I am neither motivated, nor qualified to engage in this wider debate, and hereby surrender the field to those who are more knowledgeable, and whose interest is more far more intense and relevant than mine. I will be more careful in future to avoid being ‘sucked-into’ the passionate climate change polemic.

But the debate is closed as far as this post is concerned.

April 6, 2017 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

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