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Environment

Waiting and no action

The Editor has been criticised for being simplistic and parochial and the critic has a point. However, I don’t know of any other way to deal with a complex and very large challenge other than to begin where one is situated and to see that one small situation as a part of a larger whole.
 |  Pauline Stewart  | 
Erosion

 – not an option or responsible – Erosion part 3

Managed retreat

It might be a very easy decision for some to plan retreat, pack up and find a new home. But for most of the population there is little freedom to simply pack up and leave.

It is not possible financially, or from a family point of view as well as from an employment point of view. If there is suddenly a war or a tsunami, of course people have no choice and move at the forces of nature or violence to survive. But when there is a passage of time for those who cannot clearly predict the future, even five years, then some kind of practical action is required.

Most people have not been able to predict five years ahead or five months. We have general trend predictions but who knew about the Chilean tsunami on our shores, the  earthquakes in Christchurch, the floods of 2023? Populations across the world have no choice but to live with threat and to work to overcome the threat.

There are groups of residents around this country who choose the path of resilience and want to work with local authorities to enact some practical steps to protect their home and their community.   Who knows how long their plans will work? Doing nothing while they wait for the ocean to rise is not an option for them in the current decade.

Some local groups have researched solutions and are prepared to pay for them. Others have researched alternatives that they have proposed but these proposals do not seem to go anywhere. They are economic in cost compared to long periods of silence, consents that never eventuate and coastal science reports that are not conclusive.

Recently, I have read the report on Managed Retreat which was prepared over a period of two years by an expert group of high-level public and political leaders.  It is thoughtful and rather sobering but there is no specific plan outlined for communities. It is heavy on listing the challenges and presenting possible scenarios but it is a long way from any kind of definition of what each region could do to equitably retreat.

What is alarming is how much autonomy would be given to local authorities and how little definition there is for any kind of compensation for humble dwellings. In this report there is an expressed desire and aspiration to do the best for everyone but that is where it finishes.

Coromandel peninsula

If one adds up all the areas that need attention in terms of habitation at great risk of flooding, storm damage and erosion it is far less then 400 kms and it is less than the Dutch feat of managing the ocean.

We would obviously hope and believe that every region is carefully looking at their particular areas and bravely facing all the options. Denis Tegg who is a known environmentalist and our recent Guest Editor, is constantly aware that a good section of Thames’ township adjacent to a flood plain, needs an engineered rock wall.

That was a surprise to me, but Denis would not offer this lightly. He is is a long- time resident and hard worker for the Thames community. Every town has to work with their local bodies to effect the change that they believe will provide a decent future. It is vital that democracy provides opportunity for freedoms within reason.

Last week

So, the home of Suzie Fletcher on Buffalo Beach Road (whom we introduced last week) is very vulnerable to flooding. It will be vulnerable no matter what. But it is exceedingly vulnerable when the two creeks near her home are not flowing and a storm water drain not far away that is obviously inadequate for all the new homes that have been built in the vicinity.

The flow of the creeks are to do with no real attention since the floods – it is not a capital works task but a maintenance project. The infrastructure on local level has not kept up with the developments in housing and not kept up with current vulnerabilities to flooding let alone climate change and thinking about mighty sea walls. There is a real issue for every task that needs to be done with the Resource Management Act – more than one party involved in investigation and decision making and often local staff are stymied by other regulations and requirements from the Waikato Regional Council. Suzie has been in touch with so many staff and she has kept a record of all the conversations. She is just wanting some response she can understand and that will enable some remedial action.

In the end all of these regulations and plans exist for the wellbeing of the people. Starting with one small area might lead to an avalanche of goodwill and some practical outcomes that energise everyone to look more carefully at future options.

What is very clear is that State Highway 25 runs very close  to all the homes in this area. Some of the homes are a few centimetres below the level of the road and the ocean but just a few.

The road as a lifeline to current settlement and future development must be protected.  A plan that protects the road needs to include the houses and it is not a plan that will wait for the full weight of the Coastal Protection Plan for this small area to be implemented.   

Next week – small build jobs can save houses for the next stage of our future