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Published: 2003-05-06 00:00:00

Otorohanga District Council’s commissioner and Environment Waikato’s Restricted Coastal Activity Committee have recommended granting a resource consent for constructing a seawall to protect the Aotea area from erosion to the Minister of Conservation.

The application from Otorohanga District Council attracted seven submissions in support to the District Council and 29 to Environment Waikato, along with two submissions with concerns. The proposal is to construct a 750 metre seawall in front of the Aotea settlement consisting of a timber retaining wall backfilled with sand, and fronted with rock rip rap.

The area will reclaim up to 4000 square metres of the coastal marine area and includes construction of three sets of stairways and upgrade of an existing ramp.

The Department of Conservation had concerns about the project’s adverse effects on natural character and amenity values, public access, structural integrity, potential end effects and monitoring. It wanted the council to remove existing derelict structures, ensure public access along the wall and replant the reclaimed banks with native plants.

Submitters in support said a large proportion of the Aotea community supported the proposal, and that the seawall would enhance public access. Environment Waikato technical advisor Joanna Smith said severe erosion had caused damage and loss to a number of properties. Ad hoc erosion control structures had affected amenity values and raised safety concerns.

It was unlikely that the seawall would have a significant effect on ecological values and no submissions were received opposing the proposal.

Coastal scientist Bronwen Gibberd said there was no way to directly mitigate the effects of a seawall on coastal processes.

The Committee said granting the consent would enable the community to provide for their social and economic wellbeing, and protect a significant cultural site from erosion. The Aotea community had struggled with severe erosion since the area was first subdivided in 1963 and a number of properties had been lost.

It acknowledged the commitment of the community in dealing with the issue and working with the district and Regional Councils.

Although the seawall was a suitable solution the Committee was not persuaded that it was sustainable medium to long term. Otorohanga District Council and Environment Waikato should actively identify alternative solutions that would provide a long-term solution.

The District Council needed to continue managing development behind the seawall to reduce the hazard to the community, it said. The recommendation has been sent to the Minister of Conservation who is expected to make a decision within 20 working days.