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Wednesday
May032017

Denis Tegg on Whitianga Beach Erosion.

Denis wrote a good article published in the Hauraki Herald on 28 April.

However, as you will see from the response below that I submitted yesterday to the HH, I take issue with the manner in which he attempts to expand this simple issue of beach remediation and protection into criticism of both our councils for having failed to meet the requirements of National Coastal Policy Statement. I dispute that assertion, but that is not the main issue that concerns me.

I agree that there are far wider issues ("big picture" is Denis's desciption), but to conflate the two detracts from the immediacy of the situation that has been extant on our eastern coast beaches for a very long time. The attempt by Eastern Seaboard councillors to secure District funding of beach remediation and protection is in my view a simple piece of sophistry designed to pull the wool over the eyes of our Western brethren, and ensure that we all meet the cost of storm damage into the future on the mistaken assertion that our risk is just as great.

The problem arises as time goes on and the events foreshadowed by Denis in regard to sea level rise materialise - that is a different 'kettle of fish,' and needs a national response, let alone a widespread local plan that may or may not justify the 'settling' of costs in the manner he suggests. 

A far greater risk if I am not mistaken lies in the fact that Whitianga, or rather Mercury Bay constitutes the highest risk of tsunami damage than anywhere in the country. Is that eventuality to be confused with sea level rise? - I sincerely hope not - Whitianga residents have made their own choices  in the face of widespread knowledge of the tsunami danger, and I fail to see that anyone here has greater responsibility for a consequential 'bail-out' than any other home-owner anywhere in the country.

In the meantime, we have the problem of storm damage to eastern beaches - a 'local' problem, and cost - always has been, always should be, but Crs McLean, Fox and Chair Kelly would have us believe otherwise, and come to their party. With Council recently committing a further $365,000 of our money to their cause, I submit that that should be the end of what was meant to be a 'temporary' solution, last year. And 'rhubarb' to Denis's "parochial" claim.

Here is my response to Denis:

Denis Tegg has as usual highlighted another embarrassing issue facing this District and Region, along with many others that are in the same firing line of sea level rise. Dennis correctly warns us of the long term effects that may or may not be exceeded. They will certainly not be insignificant for Thames over the next few decades.

But Denis conflates the current situation facing Mercury Bay, and other beaches on the Eastern Seaboard with the overall strategy required under the 2010 National Coastal Policy         Statement to deal with sea-level rise and consequent inundation.

Denis berates our Council and the WRC for failing to produce the required coastal hazard documents, failing to restrict development within the defined hazard zones, and failing to consult widely with those affected.  These claims are simply untrue, and unfair. The plan proposed under the Coastal Policy Statement has been developed, and includes measures to deal with both coastal erosion and inundation.

The Coastal Inundation Model (http://coastalinundation.waikatoregion.govt.nz) provides a very clear indication of the likely effects of inundation at various levels above high water mark, subject to further monitoring and calibration. The work to date has inspired an indignant outcry from many affected landowners, as is to be expected, but the hazard plans are a requirement. Threats of legal action are hardly likely to deter the establishment of the hazard zone maps, and will proceed even should insurance companies deny protection - a news report today (29 April) indicated that property below the 1.5m High Water Mark will be uninsurable by 2025.  

But regardless, it is critically important that Denis’s overall hypothesis is challenged because the issues currently being faced by our Council in regard to East Coast beach amenities, while related, are substantially different from Coastal policy, when considered in the light of his opening sentence – “Who should pay over $1m to protect a few east coast beaches from coastal erosion?”

This issue has been before Council last year and this, and becomes even more important as we approach the time then our Council’s Long Term Plan is developed later this year, and the issue of who pays – Local, or District rate-payers, becomes moot. The policy in this regard has always been that it is a local charge, but in 2016 the Mercury Bay Board sought a change to enable the immediate cost of beach remediation – nothing to do with Coastal Policy, to be spread over the entire rate-payer base.

This was adopted by the previous Council as a purely ‘temporary’ measure – recently extended by the current Council to cover a further cost of $363,000 to 30 June 2018 on top of $700,000 for the current year. Erosion has been going on for hundreds of years one way or another – what is happening at Mercury Bay has been dealt with over a very long period, with the argument generally surrounding ‘hard’ or ‘soft options – walls, or sand filled bags in other words.

Confusing these two issues is disingenuous, and there is simply no justification for prudent ratepayers in other Board areas to be forced by clever politicking by East Coast councillors, albeit operating in the best interests of their own constituents, to succeed in persuading Council as a whole to accept that restoration, and indeed protection of their beach amenities should be anything other than a ‘local’ charge, as it always has been in the past.

Sharing the cost of fixing up eroded East Coast beaches is just the ‘stalking horse’ for permanent and substantial risk sharing that we should avoid at all costs. After all, the average value of West Coast housing assets is substantially lower than that of the East, yet we all pay basically the same rates because of the peculiarities of our inequitable land-value based rating system.      

I believe we should be grateful to Denis for bringing this issue to the fore, but I do not accept his view – expressed directly on my own blog (billbarc.squarespace.com) that my argument is ‘parochial.’ It is anything but when considered in the light of all the facts, and attempts to spread the beach restoration and protection burden over the entire Council should be resisted when the LTP is developed, and goes for public consultation.

 

 


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Reader Comments (3)

Interesting discussion Bill and good points. Has Dennis even been to Whitianga? As someone who has watched the events unfold in Mercury Bay firsthand I have been amazed that ratepayers have never questioned the costs associated with the erosion protection of Brophies Beach reserve when this stretch of beach reserve is actually owned by NZTA and not TCDC. While there is no question about whether the erosion work was warranted ratepayers are justified to know what contribution has NZTA made towards the cost to protect the reserve. One would expect that erosion protection of private land sits with the landowner so one would also hope that NZTA is not getting a free ride at the expence of us ratepayers. Council has also undertaken expensive landscaping on the reserve, errected a bus shelter (at the expence of our views) added a gas bar b q and a walkway and renovated toilets......all sitting on an NZTA reserve (or is it a road). One would hope the coffee cart and other businesses who operate on the reserve are not paying TCDC for the privilige of prime sites on NZTA land.

May 3, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBayboy

Excellent point Bayboy - I believe that the question of ownership has been avoided in the past precisely because Whitianga councilors realised that the work would never be undertaken by NZTA - they only ever agreed to the work necessary to protect the road and bridges - never the beach that is so important to Whitianga residents. Perhaps your comment will elicit a defence from someone, but somehow I doubt it.

May 3, 2017 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

Isn't that large house on the northern end of Brophy's Beach owned by an current District Councillor?
No doubt they would have registered a 'conflict of interest' in this when presented to the Council for dicussion?

May 4, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBay Boy Also

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