Waikato Regional Council says it is committed to working closely with Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC) and local communities to manage coastal hazard risks, such as erosion and flooding, in the face of any increased sea level and climate change pressures.
The comment follows the release of a statement from TCDC focusing on the need to manage the risk of coastal erosion on properties, a significant issue for a number of Coromandel communities.
The regional council has a solutions-focused role when it comes to addressing such problems in both the short and long terms. It researches the specific causes of erosion as part of its hazard management functions and has worked in a variety of ways to help TCDC and local communities better understand and manage the various hazards and risks. Also, as part of its regulatory role the regional council assesses the likely environmental effects of resource consent applications for “hard” structures, such as sea walls, and grants resource consent for such structures and beach replenishment where appropriate.
“With predicted sea level rise, and potential for more frequent severe weather events, under climate change, councils and communities collectively need to work together even more closely to manage the risks associated with coastal hazards,” said regional council chairperson Paula Southgate.
“The huge challenge we collectively face is balancing the protection of land and land-based assets with maintaining the natural character of beaches which are central to the attractiveness of coastal settlements – sometimes meeting both these goals can be difficult.
“The regional council recognises clearly the stress a number of Coromandel communities face due to coastal erosion and we are committed to working closely with TCDC and those communities on the best way to manage the situation, taking into account both the protection of property and the need to preserve the look and use of beaches.”
The ways in which the regional council has been helping manage erosion issues so far include:
- Advice to TCDC on “set back lines” to help avoid development in erosion-prone areas.
- $150,000 set aside for research into what can be done to manage coastal erosion in Mercury Bay in ways that won’t adversely affect beaches and still protect the land. (It’s commonly understood that coastal erosion causes are often complex and not well understood. There are examples of public money being spent on unsustainable solutions because not enough time has been taken to understand coastal processes.)
- The granting of a widespread consent to TCDC for “beach scraping” whereby sand can be moved around to help manage erosion. For example, erosion at Whangapoua during recent storms would have been more severe without works carried out after another big weather event in 2008.
- The Beachcare programme for dune restoration on the east coast which has planted and restored previously degraded dunes in many areas.
- Working closely with TCDC staff and politicians to take a strategic, long-term view of how best to manage erosion issues going forward.
“For our part, we recognize the frustration of Coromandel communities over the fact that there are no easy, comprehensive solutions to coastal erosion issues generally,” said Ms Southgate.
"Hard structures, such as sea walls, can have a role but they can also create problems by contributing to erosion elsewhere and affect the look and use of the beach. Other solutions, such as beach scraping to replenish eroded dunes, have their limitations.
“So it will be important for us all to keep working together closely to address the complexity of the issues involved in protecting our communities and the precious beaches of our region.
“During the consideration of our Long Term Plan the regional council will be looking at what further role we may play in managing coastal hazard risks in our coastal communities.”