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Hearings Season In Full Swing

Yesterday, it was the turn of WRC to hear from disgruntled rate-payers, and there was by all accounts no shortage. I had my 'two-bob's  worth over the failure of either council to accept any responsibility for the 5 January event, or its aftermath at Tararu. Remember, this event had little or nothing to do with climate change, or rising sea levels - it was purely the result of gale force winds from a narrow NW quarter, combined with the highest tide in living memory.

Boiled down, this is the paradox - the WRC has through its Waihu/Piako Catchment Committee the mandate and responsibility for protecting the coastline from Tararu to Kaiaua, but has interpreted that mandate in the past as being limited to rivers mouths, and farmland. It claims to have no responsibility for protecting Thames or Tararu. Other areas of the Region are covered by other committees, but the major protection is that afforded farmers on the Plains by the Waihou/Piako Catchment Committee, and it faces major problems in the years ahead for reasons that hardly need repeating here.

I would argue that they (the Committee, and the Council) cannot pick and choose - they collect rates to protect the entire area, including Thames and Tararu, and they are avoiding their clear and legal responsibility in that regard by turning a blind eye in this case. They clearly believe that any protective works inside the town boundary are the responsibility of Thames Community Board, and the TCDC. 

The District council has in the past undertaken protective works - principally at Moanataiari, and on an extremely small scale at Tararu following the last threat in 2005 - that latter work being informal, unconsented, and only effective in a limited way. It failed to prevent the inundation on 5 January that circumvented the end of the bund.

Apart from that, I have not had it proven to me in any legal sense that the Regional Council is able to escape responsibility, other than the old shibboleth about the existing ramshackle defences between Wilson and Robert Streets being on 'private land' (as trhe result of past erosion) and therefore no responsibility of anyone other that the three or four land-owners. That particular excuse completely ignores the fact that on 5 January, the 25 odd insurance claims resulted from water that flowed through those three or four properties into the surrounding area.

It is utterly senseless, and irresponsible for the two councils to each deny responsibility, and point to the other while claiming 'it is not our problem.' We all pay rates to cover this eventuality - if more are required through a taretted rate, so be it. Not one resident has indicated resistance to that suggestion during the course of private discussions, but neither Council appears willing to go even that far - it appears simply a case of 'digging in their heels,' and hoping it will all go away. 

I, and others have submitted to both councils TYP's on this issue, and we have had no indication of any acceptance of responsibility - quite the opposite. There were certainly several expressions of disgust at yesterday's meeting at this attitude by this Council, and in the case of Denis Tegg, a well argued plea for both councils to put far more resources into planning for sea-level rise, and hazard protection around the entire coastline. Denis has in the past expressed some misgivings about councils stepping in to deal with a particular problem as occurred on 5 January rather than deal with the problem holistically. 

Regardless of the virtue of that argument, there is a particular problem at Tararu that cannot simply be left to be handled by residents alone. Both councils need to sort out who is responsible and step up to the mark, even if it requires resorting to the Environment court for a determination - and that is not out of the question in the circumstances.

The 200 to 300 metres of ramshackle sea-wall between Wilson and Robert Streets must be repaired regardless of who owns it, and if necessary, the existing bunds restored. Already, insurance companies are reviewing policies in the area to exclude inundation, and a large number of mainly elderly residents are fearful of a repeat of the 5 January tidal and storm event that may wipe out their entire asset.

What about some leadership on this - please, from both our Mayor, and the WRC Chair?



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Reader Comments (7)

I would suggest that your bold assertion that the January 5 sea flooding event had little or nothing to do with climate change and sealevel rise is wrong. Sure there were very high king tides (not a record as you suggest) strong winds from the Norwest and a low-pressure system. But all these factors were placed on top of a baseline of 20 – 25 cm of sea level rise which has already occurred. It is not as if sea level rise only began yesterday – it's been going on for over a century. 20 – 25 cm may not sound like a lot but if you check out the Regional Councils flooding simulator you'll see that it can make a huge difference to how far inland and how deep coastal flooding impacts occur. As an analogy, if you leave the plug in your kitchen sink and it overflows onto the kitchen bench it only takes a few millimetres of overtopping for the "flood" to travel a long distance. We saw this effect with the flooded farmland 0.5 – 1.0 m inland at Kaiaua. Also 20 – 25 cm of additional depth of water adds a huge huge weight and force even of itself and when this is additional weight is pushed ashore by strong winds it is not surprising that it causes greater damage.

This why The latest MfE Guidance to the Regional Council and other councils spells this out. Extreme storm surge events like January 5 will become much more frequent as sea levels continue to rise. A further rise of 10 cm will turn an extreme storm surge event from every 100 years to every 30 years. Add another 10cm and it could happen every 10 years. Another 10cm on top of that and it is every 3 years. etc. Then for much of the Thames foreshore we have the added threat of land subsidence which makes the local sea level problem far worse -

May 9, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

Denis - I did not say a "record" - I said "in living memory," which I stand by.
And those here who have seen the water come over previously might argue that climate change and sea-level rise was of limited relevance on this occasion, so please don't get 'hung up' on it - the scale of it on this occasion may support your argument, but it is not the 'be-all and end-all.' I otherwise concur with all your other assertions.
I, on the other hand have a personal interest in getting our councils to take responsibility for, and to undertake restoration between Wilson and Robert Streets - that is my sole objective on this occasion, and while I understand and agree totally with the logic of your holistic argument concerning the need for an urgent overall assessment of the dangers facing the entire 400km coastline, that does not help us right now in Tararu.
Accordingly, you may find it in your heart to show a little more understanding of our situation - it is just the old micro v. macro argument all over - neither is wrong!

May 9, 2018 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

The underlying assumption when we talk about past events is that they were not affected by sea level rise. But sea level rise did not start in the 1990s but in the 1890s. So when the ex-tropical Cyclone Drena event occurred in 1997 there was already 15 – 20 cm of sealevel rise - therefore climate change and sealevel rise had an impact. So yes these are real effects – they have been going on for decades and we should push back at any attempt to try and marginalise them.

As for the macro versus micro-argument it's not just Tararu which had houses or businesses flooded on January 5 . The area around the Shortland wharf, Richmond Villas, Dandy field, behind the GOLDFIELD shopping centre, Brown Street, Albert Street, Moanatiaari seawall was marginally overtopped and only just held out, communities all up the Thames Coast particularly Te puru – they all had flooding/damage.

We have 400 km of coastline and much of this is at risk from flooding – houses, businesses and essential infrastructure. So good on you for going into bat for the local suburb, but be careful what you wish for in terms of the rating burden. The intensive study in the Hawke's Bay involving experts and the local community has come up with a plan for just 40 km of coastline with some rough costings over the next 100 years of between $131 and $286 million. These involve a range of mitigation options including natural defences, raising houses, protective measures and in some cases managed retreat. It's horses for courses type approach. It doesn't take much imagination as to what the multimillion dollar costs will be for 400 km of coastline and dozens of affected communities in Thames-Coromandel.

Setting precedents with piecemeal ad hoc planning is just not the way to go. We have to do the type of Hawke's Bay study 1st – it's only 2 or 3 years away if we get on with the job – fully consult with every affected community share costs with WRC and come up with a robust plan for each section of the coastline.

May 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

We are talking about two different things Denis, and your desire to push your particular view over any other is becoming tiresome.
I am talking about Tararu because that is where I live. Also, I am talking about 'restoration' of 200 to 300 metres of existing structures - not new structures or defences over 400km of coastline. Call it piecemeal, or ad-hoc if you wish - that is inevitable.
As for the rating effect - we will wait to see that when we can persuade the two councils to accept the responsibility that to date they remain defiantly unwilling to recognise. I do not need your "be careful what you wish for" warning in that regard.
Sorry, but discussion on this post is now closed - everyone is now familiar with your view on the matter, and no-one to my knowledge (apart from dinosaurs on our Council) disagrees with the Hawkes Bay type study you promote.

May 10, 2018 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

A small correction for both Bill and Dennis (perhaps I shouldn't get in the middle of this...): the wind on that fateful morning was NOT northwest, at least it wasn't at Thames. If the wind had been northwest, things would have been much worse. The (northeast) wind was blowing strongly onshore at Kaiaua, and things were indeed much worse there.

Let's be realistic about the circumstances, because it also wasn't really raining at high tide, which would also have made the flooding worse. I seem to be saying "worse" a lot. It's the superlative form of "bad"!

May 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterChris Longson

Tiresome or persuasive? Again, Tararu was not the only place where an existing seawall or protective structure is going to need attention. The same can be said of Shortland wharf, Richmond Villas, Danby field, behind the GOLDFIELD shopping centre, Brown Street, Albert Street, Moanatiari seawall.....Not to mention the stop banks between Kopu and Rhodes Park

It's your blog and you have got editorial control but why would you want to shut down informed discussion?

May 10, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDenis Tegg

It certainly appeared NW or NNW here, let us compromise with "from the northerly quarter". Only in this manner could the waves have peeled down the coastline as I saw it.
And Denis - there is a fine line between 'informed,' and 'enlightened' argument.
I have never denied the same or similar effects elsewhere - it is simply that what happened at Tararu was the worst within Thames and the Waihou/Piako Catchment Board area (excepting Kaiaua), and you appear to stubbornly deny the difference between 'restoration' and 'new works.' ..
Others can (and have) called for attention elsewhere, yet you seem determined to dismiss my concerns based around what was probably the unnecessary inundation of 25 homes here at Tararu as irrelevant in the overall scheme of things. Our interests diverge at that point, hence my intention to end what is becoming a boring argument.

May 10, 2018 | Registered CommenterBill Barclay

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