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  • Keith Newman

Coastal Strategy needs Government buy in

Hawke’s Bay councils may be asked to stump up more cash for outside expertise in their bid to convince the Government that its regulatory environment may be the biggest obstacle to progressing coastal protection plans local authorities are being urging to develop.

On one hand the Government is leaning on local authorities to protect and secure their infrastructure and communities as part of climate change planning but on the other the RMA and Coastal Policy Document are skewed against this.

This is one of the obstacles facing the Clifton to Tangoio Coastal Hazards Joint Council after four years of developing its leading edge Coastal Strategy Document as it runs into regulatory barriers that could make a mockery of its efforts.

Clifton to Tangoio Coastal Hazard Strategy 2120 Cover Image

Under the Resource Management Act, specifically the Coastal Policy Document, there’s insufficient flexibility to progress the development of groyne fields or rock revetments for example without incurring major consenting hurdles and compliance costs.

The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) of the Coastal Hazards Committee is engaged in ongoing discussions with high level Government officials to try and create a better environment for all councils tasked with protecting coastal areas.

Advancing preparatory work locally and convincing Government to amend its strict parameters so councils can achieve what’s being asked of them with require outside expertise as many council officers involved are already stretched doing their day job.

There’s been scant media coverage of the Joint Council Strategy meetings even though they are public for the most part. I stayed until the workshops began (03-09-2010) but have been a Southern Cell Committee community member and part of the consultation process since it was first formed.

The in-house workshop today was to address another pressing issue that has held up the process for the past six months, a debrief as to why the “contributory fund” remains stalled.

The joint councils, Hastings, Napier and HB Regional, have committed $100,000 each for the next three years to continue work toward an all-of-coast solution. That involves series of adaptive pathways for each of 16 cells along the coast to meet the requirements of 100-years of sea-rise and climate change.

In some cases, the answer will be groynes, seawalls, replenishment and even managed retreat is factored in at various points along the timeline.

All councils initially agreed to progressing the funding plan which was ratified by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council and Napier City Council but despite workshops with Hastings District Council a couple of councillors objected.

The proposal is, after considerable legal advice, that from 2021 Napier and Hastings will levy an additional $15 annually from ratepayers to protect land from sea-level rise and the impacts of climate change. Hawke’s Bay Regional Council will add $15 per ratepayer to protect ‘public good’ infrastructure.

Further funds would be collected from individuals or specific groups and property owners through a targeted rate for ‘private good’ protection work when that is required. Public consultation was supposed to begin in July 2020.

Without agreement on the funding; designed to ensure the full cost of protection and other works isn’t left to future generations, four years of work remains in limbo.

That critical topic will have to be picked up after the elections with some new faces around the table, although I’m assured none of the work that has been engaged in so far is at risk.

It will be very difficult to progress to the next stage of work, allocating ‘trigger’ points for action at key locations, without agreement on a fair and reasonable funding plan.

There are no precedents for allocating triggers in New Zealand or around the world, so the Deep South Science Challenge is now providing advice with results expected early in 2020. This will include cultural, social, engineering and design elements.

Meanwhile the need to amend policy and legislation to enable the proposed Coastal Strategy solutions to occur is becoming a critical issue.

The Coastal Hazards Joint Committee is already seeking to better align the interpretation of the building code and consenting conditions in council district plans and to consider this as part of a larger regulatory review.

There’s also a suggestions that the Regional Coastal Environment Plan and council short-term and Long Term Plans (LTPs) would perhaps be the place from which ‘triggers’ for coastal protection and related activities are activated.

The implications of just how significant the Coastal Hazards Strategy is are now starting to hit home, including how it impacts on local councils and potentially councils across the country, on how to prepare for climate change.

While local issues are still being worked through, including further consultation with the impacted communities, many are now asking, so where is Central Government in all of this?

This work going on in Hawke’s Bay is supposed to be leading the way but it’s becoming too much to land on local authorities to work on a Strategy the country is looking to leverage.

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