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Spring Tides + Northerly Storm = Disaster

Circumstances demand that I open up far sooner that I had planned.

Denis Tegg's prediction came true with an impact far greater than we could have imagined - the residual effect will take years to rectify, and a general re-think of our Council's sleepy reaction to the warning factors will need to be reviewed.

Gary Towler's (our Civil Defence Controller) reaction today is too little, too late. Having staff visit everyone on the Coast - both those effected and otherwise, hardly qualifies, but on ther hand, the response of our new road contracters - Higgins, has been universally praised. Those doing this interviewing task were hardly equipped to undertake the damage inventory, even if their 'clip-board' actions were well meant.

I have photos that will bring reality to a sureal situation, and will post them in due course.

In the meantime, I will post an unexpected email I received last  evening from the "Informer" editor - Stephen BosmanHe seems to be under the misconception that commentators like me need to be held to the fire over statements made years ago.  He is a qualified journalist, but he appears to hold me to a different standard than even he and his colleagues regularly demonstrate.

I have made no secret of the changes to my thinking over the dangers we are facing - this following long discussions with Denis Tegg, and an examination of the evidence he has compiled. I have consistently reported this progression, but just what this has to do with the age-old argument over District v. Area of Benefit funding escapes me.

Mr Bosman sought my comment on my views in the light of yesterday's events clearly with a view to impale me over my attitude at the time the 2015 LTP was being compiled. He appears to miss the point about what blogs are all about - reasoned argument, right or wrong - I don't mind changing my position in the face of reasoned argument, but in any case retain my firm belief that District rather than Area of Benefit funding was a rort that has forever disadvantaged Thames rate-payers - a position that has always rankled with Eastern Seaboard residents.

Here is the exchange from yesterday:

Dear Mr Barclay,

I always keep an eye on your blog and, given today’s damage on the Thames Coast and with reference to your comments of Tuesday 29 July 2014 (see below), cannot help to wonder if your position has changed?

Any chance you can let me know? The Thames Coast situation is, in my view, critical. I am contacting a few other people as well for comments.

Well it did not take long for Mayor Leach to set about making the case for a change to the District Plan to bring about District funding of coastal protection, - this emerged from the Castle today. See my post - 'Climate Change and Who Pays?' of 26 June below.

The utterly charming way in which our erstwhile Mayor rationalises this change should take the LGNZ dissembling award for the year.

"We have to remember that beyond roads are the houses themselves. While scientists debate, trial things and postulate solutions, the real-life situation demands that we draw a line of action before we start losing any houses," says the Mayor." 


"One of the ways we're looking to pay to manage coastal erosion is through our upcoming 2015 -2025 Long Term Plan. This could see coastal and hazard activity becoming district-funded, which would be targeted out of everyone's rates."


"You don't have to go too far back to see similar issues of protection needed on the Thames coast too. Just because we have erosion issues in Mercury Bay, Pauanui, Tairua and Whangamata is no guarantee that we won't see more on the western seaboard in future also."

I would challenge the Mayor to name any area in Thames or its coast where the likelihood of damage comparable to that facing the East Coast is either imminent, or likely in the foreseeable future. And I mean 'financial' damage. Sure there are pockets that are facing inundation to a degree, but for him to rationalise District charging on this basis is simply balderdash, and he knows it! All the scientific gobbledygook in Christendom wont come near equating the two coasts in terms of the danger and damage being faced. And to extend the tired old 'unaffordability' argument to make Thames residents responsible for 'bailing-out' the East coast is beyond outrageous 

The ''softening-up' process is underway - watch carefully as the argument for District funding is developed over the next few months - it will undoubtedly refer to the Moanataiari situation from years ago when the District made a 9% token contribution to the cost - otherwise a totally Thames responsibility. Millions of dollars are about to be committed defending the East Coast, and at this rate we will be paying for it, along with Zoom Zone Dry Courts, Skate Parks, footy Grandstands and grand redesigns of our Town Centre, including traffic lights.  Nothing to speak of put aside for Thames infrastructure that is facing imminent collapse.  So far it is only a vast array of consultants that have benefited to the tune of hundreds of thousands - but wait till the real bills start coming in.

What kind of idiocy is being perpetrated on our behalf - our councillors were elected to defend our interests, not allow themselves to be manipulated like putty in Leach's hands.


Stephan Bosnan

Dear Mr Bosman

What a surprise to hear from you after all this time, and interesting that you should bring up an issue that dates back to the period when the 2015 District Plan was being compiled.

Had you been following the discussion on my blog  since then, mainly surrounding the effort of Denis Tegg to bring the situation surrounding coastal inundation, and the effects of sea-level rise to the attention of our Council, and ratepayers, you would be aware that like any reasonable commentator, I have changed my position  in the face of evidence that has only really become clear over that time, but not my basic objection to Mayor Leach’s rationalisation of District charging of coastal protection for the following reasons:

Northerly storms, combined with spring tides indeed pose a major threat at this end of the Gulf in particular, and particular measures will need to be taken to deal with the problem, but it is by no means alone in posing a threat to ours, and your futures. For instance, it  in no way equates to the threats posed to the Eastern Seaboard from other natural phenomena that I should not have to spell out here. That danger is infinitely greater in my opinion, and I believe in the opinion of the NIWA experts who have written on the matter recently. The threat to Thames in contrast has existed for a very long time, and simply required the combination of natural events that has occurred over the last two days bring it to a head.

Inundation is one thing, Tsunami is quite another and the geography of Eastern Seaboard settlements lends itself to large scale destruction – something that will only ever occur on a far smaller, and predictable scale on this side of the Peninsula. Also, structures and infrastructure here and elsewhere on the Thames Coast have in general been in place for a far longer period – certainly from long before there was common knowledge of the threat.

The situation on the Eastern Seaboard with  the almost wilful failure of developers, with the acquiescence of Council, to adjust to the known dangers  within recent times deserves the utmost condemnation in my opinion.

As for the question of District v. Area of Benefit funding, can I simply say that your attempt to somehow ‘score a point’ at this late stage does not reflect well on you as a journalist – it may cause sniggering were it used in the context of a parliamentary question, but it is now ancient history, and irrelevant. We are already paying for your new protection in Whitianga, and that will only increase over time over the entire East coast. We will deal with our problems, attempt to restore existing infrastructure (mainly NZTA), and get on with life. Of course real inundation perils face us in the future, both here and right across the Plains.  Measured retreat is probably the only rational response, but without central Government involvement, hardly likely.  

What is of far greater concern is the Eastern Seaboard (and by this policy, our) exposure to far greater risk, and I resile in no way from the stand that I took at that time against the rationalisation by the then Mayor in favour of district funding of coastal protection. The entire ‘three waters’ argument was based on a false premise (unaffordability!), and a totally inappropriate subsidisation of developers.  

I wish you and your newspaper the best for the New Year.

Best regards

Bill Barclay





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Reader Comments (5)

mean't? Is that a contraction of 'mean not' in the same was as can't is a contraction of 'can not'? Of all of the examples of random apostrophisation out there, and there are many, yours towers over the others. Interesting that the comments panel has a spell check function - it doesn't recognise 'apostrophisation' for the simple and sufficient reason that I just coined it - but it's (intentional apostrophe use to denote missing i) OK with mean't. Maybe you both know something I don't...

January 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBJ

Well it is certainly nice to know that I tower over something.
American (and this qualifies!) spell-checking does have its limitations, but on this occasion, and probably many others I would agree that the use of an apostrophe is totally unnecessary. I look forward to your future oversight, and correction, but comments on content are even more welcome.

January 7, 2018 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

I will refrain from entering into the discussion of District v Area of Benefit funding other than to say there are pros and cons with each. (The then government's/local govt. commission's restructuring to larger councils, in the late 1980s, had as one of its outcomes, forming larger councils to provide a larger funding base for major works that smaller councils could not handle).
Regarding the storm last Friday, the low lying area of Thames was, in one respect, very lucky indeed! Fortunately, at the time around high tide, there was not also heavy rain. Heavy rain is usually part of such a low pressure weather system. If there had been heavy rain, which could not 'get away' via the streams and stormwater outlets because of the very high tide, serious flooding from stormwater would have been added to the mix. I hope that TCDC, and NZTA, take it on board that with climate change now being a 'mainstream' issue and concern, there is the need to consider, plan and provide for, this sort of weather event, as part of the wider consideration of sea level rise.

January 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Maybe it would be a good idea to look at how a district fund to deal with climate change issues could be set up. For example, the $27 million from the sale of Power company shares that the District Council owns, is currently kept as an investment earning interest at a very low percentage which is used to provide a pathetic rates subsidy across the District, arguably hiding the true cost of paying for the services that are provided by the District Council and demonstrating too,with returns being so pathetic, that better investment 'smarts' are required.

So why not let the true costs of service provision fall where they may and invest the $27 million far more wisely (a 6% return or $1.62 million p.a. should easily be achievable - see a professional outfit with a sustainable track record, there are plenty of them), which could be left to accumulate on a compounding basis until the use of it was genuinely required, meaning that in 10 years say, a sum of well over $20 million would be available?

January 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterReality Check

I do not live in Whitianga but was in the area at the time of the storm. I read the article in the local paper and was a little bemused about the reporting of the weather. As far as I could tell it was a direct northerly so would have hit the areas north of Whitianga, looking at a map Brophys beach was quite protected so in my view the coastal protection work which was done in 2015 was not tested. I will be interested to see what happens in a storm of that intensity if it came directly from the east.

January 11, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterObserver

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