Coastal Management Plan
Monday, August 19, 2019 at 4:28PM
Bill Barclay

I was unable to attend the recent  Thames public meeting on this extremely important issue.. This was the firdt opportunity for the public to meet with the Dutch consultants who have been awarded the $1.3m contrcat to 'scope' the works required to ensure the safety of our coastal communities.

I did manage to obtain a report from a trusted source as to the proceedings that took place at Te Puru where a separate meeting took place to deal with concerns of that group of residents.

Here is his excellent report:

"I was surprised and actually quite pleased to see probably over 100 people at the meeting in Te Puru.  I got the feeling that TCDC were a little surprised also, judging by the absence of staff.

I did notice Sally Christie in the audience (although she very much kept her head down) and potential Councillor candidate Murray Wakelin was there - good bloke but will be on a sharp learning curve if he gets in!  Most of the audience were retirees from Te Puru, very interested and engaged, given the impact from the last storm event. The purpose was to introduce the Shoreline management plan to the locals - the concept, the intent, the timeline, and so on.  What was presented was pretty much what is on the TCDC website.  

There were a couple of things that I found very notable from the presentation. 

  1. The meeting was driven by the consultants.  The lead consultant is Royal Haskoning DHV, but there were also two other "sub consultants" present - an ecologist and some sort of planner.  They made a big deal of the fact that this was a $1.3m contract.  When asked from the floor how long it was going to take, they proudly announced "three years".  Wow, that went down well -- it looked like the 3 consultants had proudly found the /goose that lays the golden egg’!
  2. There was only one TCDC staff member present who barely spoke (the two staff involved with reserves management plans were sitting to one side and not part of this address). So for me the alarm bells are already ringing about the nature of their contract - how prescribed, and how ‘watertight’ is it?  How compliant is it with the requirements of the LGA?  How was it tendered?  Was it tendered?  Where were senior TCDC staff, who should have been there because this contract is so significant in terms of dollars and outcomes? 
  3. Have the key agencies DOC, Waikato Regional Council and NZTA been approached for involvement?  Do they understand their level of involvement? To be fair, there was a Regional Council rep at the meeting, and I think he is probably wondering what he has let himself in for!  My view as you know is that Regional Council should be very much driving something like this as Catchment Management is very much their statutory responsibility.
  4. There was some good news though - they said Iwi has already been briefed, although I'm also cynical about that.  If you want to get off side with Iwi right from the start of one of these projects then say you are consulting with Iwi.  The correct protocol is to PARTNER with Iwi.
My general observation was that the consultant started well, but totally lost the audience after about 30 mins.  I think he was genuinely surprised with the level of pushback!  There was general consensus that the project was too long, very expensive, and even after three years, would not actually solve any of the ‘on ground’ issues - plus a couple of people realised that there was no guarantee it would even be adopted by Council at the end of it (bit like Blueprint ay!).
People quite rightly raised that some of this work had already been done through things like Blueprint, catchment plans, WRC work (modelling of Waihou outflow up coast), and so on.  The consultant was keen to "find" all this stuff - well, its all there, you just have to look.  Shame that all the staff who completed this have moved on!
I think the audience were expecting delivery on the night of an action plan.  There is a group in Te Puru (its a watchdog group) which has been recording measurements for years and already have some localised solutions, I hope the consultant talks to them!  They made themselves known on the night, so that's good.
A couple of folk focused on management of streams and rivers better (this has been neglected up the coast for years), particularly around mouth clearance, and pointed out that the inundation that occurred during the Jan 5 event could have been prevented if the stream mouths were clear.  I don't think that the consultants have even considered the inundation impact from the streams on the Thames Coast (and in Thames for that matter).
They are intending to break the whole coast into localised segments for management, and this caused a lot of discussion around how you decide the boundaries of this.  I was more concerned that they were coming up with solutions before the problem has even been defined, but there you go.  

All and all, a bit of a shambles, and I'd love to be a fly on the wall when they are having their meetings on the east side!!  I can see this being re-scoped big time, and clearly a new Council should be looking at this very closely.  Failure to achieve anything on the ground in the next cycle will not be tolerated by the rate-payers I suspect.  

If it were me, and if we are serious about this, I'd get a separate specific Shoreline Management Plan for the Thames coast, from Wilson's Bay to Kopu, not try and get it all done in one big District-wide document.  You would move a lot quicker, it would be cheaper, and community ownership would be greater.  It could be driven at Board level, but funded at District, with Council endorsing at the end."



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