Erosion inaction irks residents

22:59, Jul 13 2014
keith hunter
ALL THAT'S LEFT: Pakawau home owners Keith and Noelene Hunter are unimpressed with the council’s lack of decision about whether they can take action to protect the land between the sea and their home.

Residents in Pakawau, Golden Bay, desperate to protect their properties from further erosion, say they are prepared to foot the bill, if only the council would allow it.

Another six metres of remaining reserve at the front of their beachfront properties was eroded away in stormy weather during Cyclone Ita, over Easter.

Pakawau home owner Laurie Jarrett said while he understood the merits of the soft-engineering concept that the council favoured, where sand was left to build up into dunes and subside naturally, in this case there was not enough space. The eight severely affected homes needed harder reinforcement, fast.

"It's 11 weeks since the storm, we really are no further ahead after three meetings since the storm," he said.

Over the past five years more and more of the 20 metres of Queen's chain reserve land had been stripped from the eight properties, he said. In the south, some Pakawau properties had lost all their reserve land protection. Of the eight properties he is concerned about, one owner's land only has three metres left.

He said the Tasman District council was prepared to let the reserve completely erode away.


Although the residents are prepared to foot the bill for the rocks and the construction they believe is necessary to protect the remaining land, Jarrett said there was no way they can afford the resource management costs. Many of the landowners are pensioners on a tight budget. He would like the council to waive the costs in this case. He said the soft engineering concept was working well in front of his property "where the sand builds up, then goes away" but with the eight affected houses there was simply not enough room.

Tasman West Coast MP Damien O'Connor, who recently visited the affected properties, said he was "surprised" that the council would "sacrifice the reserve". He agrees that the council should set aside resource management costs as a compromise, "especially when the locals are prepared to pay".

"There's no logical reason the council wouldn't move sooner rather than later," O'Connor said.

Geologist John Weeber, who is building a house in Pakawau, said the group was in agreement with how shorelines came and went "but we're stuck with the boundaries, and we're going through a phase of erosion over the next 10 years".

The Pakawau residents are waiting on a report which has been delayed due to several staff being on leave.

Council community development manager Susan Edwards said the council would have a decision for residents early this week. "We're still working through expert advice," she said.

Edwards said home owners were welcome to pay for structures on their own properties. In response to the suggestion that the council waive the resource management fees she said the council needed to work through the options, "one of which is that there will be a point where erosion is so extreme they'll need some protection".

She did not think the properties had reached that point yet.

"Some protection may need to go on both private property and coastal property, but we're not at that point yet."

She said she had not ruled out some form of structural protection and she hoped all parties could work together to come up with a solution, "we're considering everything."

She said the council had sympathy for the residents' situations.

"It's not easy, it's very emotional for people, their properties are at stake. But we've also got to look after the wider public and the reserve."

She said the construction of harder structures could impact on neighbouring properties.

The council was obliged to follow the 2010 New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement which discouraged but did not prohibit hard engineering solutions to coastal erosion problems.

The Nelson Mail