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The Exquisite Timing Of The Famous Five January Event

Yes exquisite, because it occurred without warning, it caught everyone here at Tararu, and elsewhere in the Gulf where the waves emerged as of from nowhere totally unaware, and left us shell-shocked.

That it affected our Council the same way did not become clear until, for some, sand-bags arrived at the font door in time to ensure that water that had gone in, could not get out - curious eh! This was followed by Civil Defence 'warnings' - too little, too late. The earlier 'storm warning' did not link the other two - tidal, and wind direction factors that were critical in creating the unprecedented inundation.

And guess what, it was at precisely this time that the our Council was preparing its Long-term Plan (LTP).

That our Mayor was not only caught with her metaphorical 'pants down,' but it demonstrated to all of us, including those who had strongly supported her election, egg on our collective faces when she initially demonstrated an instinctive disavowal of any responsibility for what had happened, let alone any wish to sympathetically consider the dilemma facing residents, several of whom have lived here in the same homes their entire lives - in one case 92 years, who were wondering where to turn to next.

This was the situation that inspired me to make a submission to the Waikato Regional Council Waihou/Piako Catchment Committee on 19 March, which has accepted responsibility for the coastline from Tararu Creek to Kaiaua in all its various forms, while claiming that "it has no assets at Tararu." I was seeking its participation in dealing with the situation co-operatively with TCDC and the residents who now feel totally vulnerable.

The response, led by our Mayor by resolution, was to ignore what I had said, and asked for, and adopt the staff recommendation that completely ignored the situation at Tararu - it was as if nothing and happened, and that Tararu did not exist.

Fortunately, staff have followed up and I and others will meet with them on 12 April with a view to finding a way forward from the situation that can be put to a full public meeting here in Tararu, though a "holding" submission may have to be made to the WRC (closing date for LTP 15 April) requesting 'bridging funding' while the situation is reviewed.

The staff of both WRC and TCDC are now showing greater understanding of dilemma facing rersidents, though this does not make up for the attitude of our Mayor, though i would have say that she appers to have mellowed since her initial reaction demonstrated in the original Hauraki Herald story.

Herewith a series of letters between her and Mr Peter Feran kindly provided to me by Peter that reveal her sudden change of attitude:

Dear Sandra,

I am unsettled by your  comments (in the HH) that seaside dwellers must accept the risk of flooding and not expect support from the Council. Apart from the fact that this attitude is contrary to the policy of the TCDC in the LTP ( see pg 27)  it does seem to be at odds with the interest of 95% of the electorate . 

We require a more supportive and sympathetic ear from you and Council as we learn to mitigate risk and adjust our lifestyle accordingly. Bear in mind, the Council issued permits for ALL of the dwellings now under risk, whether it be on this coast or the eastern seaboard. Do you now consider that irresponsible?


Peter Feran

And Sandra's reply


I fully understand the situation that people find themselves in after experiencing the flooding of their properties. Flooding is a risk and always has been.

Please advise what your expectations of council are?

Page 27 of the LTP is about coastal erosion protection. No decisions in that regard have been made.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,


For your information, here is a copy of the relevant section from Page 27 of the LTP:

Coastal Erosion Protection                                                                                            We live in a dynamic coastal environment and know that the sea can present a threat to our services, our assets and our communities. Climate change is expected to increase the severity and frequency of these threats. While we have theoretical projections around the extent of sea level rise to expect and plan for, we need to know more about what action we should be taking to protect our communities and our infrastructure, and to inform where new building and development might occur. In the 2018/19 year we are spending $75,000 to undertake a district wide assessment of areas at risk of coastal erosion which will then inform a programme of coastal protection works at the 2019/20 Annual Plan. We also have another $75,000 allocated across the 2019/20, 2020/21, and 2021/22 years to understand the risks to our coastal communities, coastal infrastructure and our water supplies in coastal areas where intrusion of sea water into the groundwater source may be a risk.

Not much is it?

       and as for Coastal Management Strategy:

"Since April 2017 our staff and elected members have been working together to produce a comprehensive Coastal Management Strategy. Our focus in this strategy is on making sure we havethe most relevant information about coastal processes to best plan for our management of the coastal environment as far as we control it. Where the coastal environment is the responsibility of other authorities like the Waikato Regional Council or government departments, then the strategy gives us direction for how we advocate to them on behalf of our communities. We ran an engagement process with our communities in October-November 2017 and had over a hundred people attend our workshops across the district. This feedback has helped us identify project priorities in this Long Term Plan. A final Coastal Management Strategy will be adopted alongside the Long Term Plan in June 2018."

We could consume the entire sum sought here with what is required to restore the Roberts to Prices Street sea-wall that failed during the 5 January event. In was the intrusion of water at that weak point that caused the inundation of so many houses - mainly to a depth of probably no more than 100cm, but which caused unprecedented damage nevertheless. None of us present at 12 noon will ever forget the sight of at least one metre of water repeatedly rolling over what remained of the approximately 100m of sea-wall spanning both of those streets.

Mayor Sandra may need to be reminded that it was a recent previous Council that approved the Price's St. sub-division where most of the damage occurred. To claim that the so-called sea-wall "assets" are privately owned on private land and therefore not a Council concern as has been stated on several occasions, including at the meeting on 19 March, is irrelevant. Many of the houses affected have been extant for well over 100 years, without incident, and to claim that "everyone should have known the danger" is facile to say the least.

Our Council really has some fences to mend, and the sooner it happens the better - our rate-payers have the same rights as those at Brophy's Beach at Whitianga which faced the same dilemma, and  expect action by our Council to 'come to the party,' and at least make some effort to assist in the restoration process. 'Running for cover' is not an option that we or others in the same situation are prepared to accept.  No-one is denying a local rating effect - that is a given. We at least recognise, and accept that as a fact of life here in Thames. Can the same be said for Whitianga?

Never mind sea-level rise - that is for another day.   




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Reader Comments (3)

Have been away for a while and just read this post [in an effort to catch up!] Strange I thought, didn't Bill rail against Leach for suggesting a District wide rating for coastal erosion? Sure enough [I used the search button] --- Climate Change and Who Pays, June 16/14.
Forgive me for thinking on reading the post that us poor Bay folk should have paid rates to fix our own erosion problems and I noted that Steve said -'be aware of sheep in wolves clothing' - WRC will impose an 'area of benefit rate' if Ferans and others coerce WRC to spend money in protecting his house [and others]

March 24, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBay Boy

There is a distinct difference between building new infrastructure, as is well underway at Whitianga, and repairing existing structures as at Tararu.
And you will note that I have never at any time suggested that the critical Roberts/Wilson St. protection was the responsibility of either council. And climate change is a distraction/irrelevance in this context.
We simply want them to acknowledge that they have role to play in getting the job done. Note that many Tararu houses have been on site for over 100 years without incident. Hardly comparable with the noisy, and effective campaign at Mercury Bay to spread the cost of protecting their beaches, or the ongoing and and extravagant efforts by WRC to protect dairy farms and cows at the head of the Gulf.
And If you wish to continue the argument, let go of your anonymity.

March 25, 2018 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

There is no earthly reason to let go my anonymity to continue the argument- indeed the tone of the your challenge spurs me on!
WRC and its predecessor, Hauraki Catchment Board has rated the dairy farmers on the plains for many years as they now rate the property owners in Thames and right around the Peninsula.
It is not so much the beaches that we are trying to save in Whiti City, but the infrastructure and houses. The SH 25 is one that needs to be protected as is the large residential care unit that Council gave approval for a few decades back.[ removing 70 plus patients in the face of a storm or tsunami must be a daunting task for staff]
Cooks Beach springs to mind as an area in question of home owners attempting to protect their properties and the Council having to step in as the costs crept ever higher, and of course Whangapoua where the water now laps some houses at very high tides.
Not sure climate change is an distraction, personally I think it is reality. I guess those who have bought in those areas close to the mean high water levels need to be the same people who help to protect their own properties, whether through targeted rate or by a District charge.
Whatever the final choice there will be a huge cost,not only with infrastructure , but a human cost as well and whether the powers to be are responsible remains to be seen.

March 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterBay Boy

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