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Coastal Management: Rising Tides and Eroding Coastlines.

Families enjoying the Kapiti Coast beachThe sea along our coastline is rising and the latest data suggests it will rise by a minimum of 1 metre and a maximum of 2 metres in the coming century. Should we worry about this?

The coastline is the responsibility of Greater Wellington Regional Council and I believe it is an issue we all need to discuss

Planning for managed retreat

The Ministry for the Environment Guidelines says we should plan for an extreme sea-level rise in any strategy developed. The Proposed NZ Coastal Strategy recommended ‘managed retreat’.

What does this mean? Essentially it means that as the sea rises we retreat! It means we do not impose additional coastal protection structures or replace existing ones when they reach the end of their life times.

This has a profound effect on everyone – homeowner and land owners, developers, every ratepayer who may be asked to contribute towards building sea walls to  protect not only council infrastructure such as roads but also private property. Community costs may be high if the policy is to enhance or retrofit infrastructure. Equally the costs to the community are high if we do nothing. Then there are questions relating to equity in relation to wider community interests and private property.

Existing property rights need to be considered along side the risks to future development and the community’s role in this. There is a real tension here.

Retreat to where?

What happens when land becomes uninhabitable? Whose responsibility is it? Where should our residents ‘retreat’ to? Who should bear the costs?

Interestingly the late, lamented Canterbury Regional Council – Environment Canterbury- is the only regional council to make rules which overrode existing use rights for existing dwellings in coastal hazard zones.

Regional leadership and policy

This is a matter Greater Wellington needs a view on and show leadership. At the moment the local district council relies on its own district plan to deal with what is a regional and national problem.

Although Greater Wellington has responsibility for coastal planning and natural hazards it currently has no policy for managed retreat and coastal protection but says that Councils should move to managed retreat. They do not offer Regional Plan support for this position and I cannot see anywhere if they have plans to develop policies relating to existing use rights.

Share your views

This is an issue I feel strongly about and seek your comments to further inform me.