(Coastal Ratepayers United media release)

The attempt from 2012

In early June of this year, the Kapiti Coast District Council (KCDC) announced that the coastal hazard lines were coming back.  This will be the Council’s third attempt at bringing back the lines.

The first attempt was in 2005.  At the time, the hazard lines were deferred in order to first develop a wider Coastal Strategy which was finalised in 2006.  Although this strategy discusses hazards management, it does not identify any hazard lines.

The second attempt was in 2012.  This time, Council placed 50 and 100-year hazard lines on 1800 properties on the coast by way of the Land Information Memorandum (LIM).  In addition, Council introduced the policy of managed retreat, threatening to withdraw water, stormwater and sewerage services from the 1800 homes even before their land or buildings would suffer damage.  Moreover, Council were developing rules and restrictions around the hazard lines for a district plan.

All this work had been undertaken by Council without informing or genuine consultation with ratepayers.  In fact, the first residents in Kapiti became aware of it was through an article in the Dominion Post.

Council’s attitude was to build coastal protection structures to solve their own problems while leaving coastal homeowners high and dry.

And because of Council’s action,  issues of retaining and availability of home insurance and mortgage renewals suddenly began to emerge for those affected.  This was being compounded by the rules around the hazard lines being draconian in nature.

Consequently, those caught in Council’s dragnet of science and planning were overwhelmed with uncertainty, angst, confusion and stress to say the least.  

As a direct result, Coastal Ratepayers United (CRU) quickly established with a commitment to good science, good planning and good law.

As CRU began to challenge the science, flaws in the methodology and findings were becoming more and more apparent.  As a result, Council agreed to convene an Independent Science Panel to review the science.  Those findings were that the science was not fit for planning purposes.

Upon reviewing the planning rules, Council were forced to undertake another independent review of the proposed district plan which included Chapter 4 the coastal hazard line rules.  The panel’s recommendation was to withdraw the entire Chapter 4 from the plan.

CRU’s ability to rightly challenge the science and the planning around the hazard lines resulted in their withdrawal from the LIMs and removal of the unfair rules and restrictions that the Council had been planning.  It also put a stop to managed retreat.

The learning lesson for Council should have been to understand that although they are legally required to put coastal hazard information on LIMs, that information must be scientifically robust.

But more importantly, the Council’s unwillingness to genuinely collaborate and consult with the affected communities, to take on board ratepayers feedback and form a partnership that allows those affected to have the confidence and ownership of the Council’s policy has proven to be an expensive expenditure for the entire district.  When Council gets it wrong, we all pay.

Now here we are in 2021 and Council’s third attempt to identify hazard lines and re-instating them onto our LIMs.

To date, they have commissioned a new science report that will be published in 2 volumes. 

As Council did in 2012, they again intend to do exactly the same – publish the science and put lines on the LIMs.

Volume 1 regarding the methodology has been published and CRU has already expressed concerns regarding professional judgement and technical assumptions in that report. These material issues, if not addressed will undermine the usefulness of Volume 2 in assisting KCDC and the community to take appropriate actions.

Volume 2 will identify the new lines.

There is also a chance that the KCDC will take another run at re-introducing a blanket managed retreat policy as they did in 2012 for 1800 homes.

This time around, Council have introduced Takutai Kapiti, a coastal adaptation project (CAP), which “aims to become more aware of the impacts of coastal hazard risks…” A panel of individuals including 6 iwi representatives and 6 community members have been selected to make recommendations to Council on coastal planning and adaptation methods.

So where to from here?

We need to have confidence in the science.  We acknowledge that hazard lines need to be identified, but they need to be based on good science.  Currently, there are a few issues that need to be addressed in Volume 1.  The Council needs to take this in good faith and be able to facilitate the kind of discussions that would enable amendment to Volume 1.  The science needs to be robust enough for the LIMs.

We need to keep a watching brief on the CAP process.  The Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Mr Sean Mallon together chose the 6 members of the community to represent the panel – no doubt they have chosen wisely.  These members will have a vital role in terms of coastal hazard recommendations that will impact approximately 1800 families in Kapiti.  Lastly, Councillors need to encourage and support staff to have a genuine collaboration that ensures that there is community ownership of the process and the outcome in this matter.  A best practice model if you wish.

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