Controversial coastal hazards zonings dropped
Beachside Christchurch residents are celebrating "democracy at its best" after a plan to deal with long-term flooding and erosion risk was dropped.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Environment Minister Nick Smith and Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel announced that plan changes affecting property owners as a consequence of future coastal hazards would be dealt with through normal planning processes and not through the fast-tracked District Plan review process.
The Christchurch City Council sparked anger and anxiety among coastal property owners in July when an assessment it commissioned of the long-term threat posed by sea level rise identified 6000 properties that could be susceptible to erosion and nearly 18,000 that could face coastal inundation over the next 50 to 100 years.
The council immediately amended Land Information Memorandums for those properties to indicate they were in a coastal hazard zone and announced it was proposing through the Replacement Christchurch District Plan (RCDP) to limit new development in the areas considered most at risk.
That sparked concern people would not be able to develop their properties, values in coastal areas would dive and it would become harder and more costly to get insurance.
Christchurch Coastal Residents United spokesman Tim Sintes said the decision to step back was "fantastic news".
"To get a result like this, it's democracy at it's best.
"It has to go this way, with a national standard, rather than ticking off one town after another."
Residents were not opposed to risk mitigation on coastal hazards, he said, only the process the council had taken.
"Our argument was never about climate change. We were disputing the way it was put together and the effectiveness of it. We felt it was very unfair."
Warren Hawke has lived in New Brighton with his family for more than 30 years. When they were "earthquaked" out of their home on Rockinghorse Rd, they moved only a few blocks.
"We're beach people," he said.
"I was a surfer for over 30 years, our kids surf. We're on the beach every day of the year with the dog, just walking on the beach.
"New Brighton has been a long suffering area . . . but there's a tremendous community spirit down there and there a lot of great community groups that are working towards rebuilding the place and I'm sure, now, that that's going to happen."
Dalziel said: "[Tuesday's] announcement will be welcomed by local residents who have been extremely concerned at the proposed changes to the District Plan and their ability to have meaningful input on the issue of coastal hazards.
"The fast-tracking of the District Plan Review was always intended to be about earthquake recovery. We do not need to move with the same speed with respect to these longer term issues."
* 6000 Christchurch properties at risk from coastal erosion
* Residents challenge coastal hazards assessment
* Coastal property owners demand more time
* Christchurch coastline under threat?
Public submissions on the proposed new planning provisions were due to close on October 16, but Cabinet has agreed the council can withdraw the provisions in the RCDP.
"This is an absolute win win," Dalziel said.
"It is a great outcome. It doesn't pose a risk to the coastal environment in the sense there is plenty of time to now work through the issues without the pressure of having notified a plan change. It means we can start again and I think that will be a huge relief to people.
"I would have preferred the intervention had happened last year but I don't think anyone should feel what they have already put into the process is a waste of time. A lot of the work that we have done as a council can feed into the development of the national policy statement."
Cr David East, the only city councillor to vote against the coastal hazard provisions in the RCDP, said he was "absolutely ecstatic" at the news the provisions were being withdrawn. He had always been sceptical about the science used to justify them and believed the council was acting too hastily.
Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee said the announcement would spare the thousands of Christchurch residents affected by the planned restrictions on their property use "the mad rush to make submissions by October 16 and the uncertainty for their communities over the already difficult earthquake recovery".
Smith said Christchurch had enough on its plate and did not need to have the added burden of leading the country and the world on how to deal with the issue of climate change and sea level rise.
The Government was proposing both legislative changes and national policy guidance on such hazards as part of its Resource Management Act reform programme.
"More time will also allow contestable advice and normal appeal rights to the Environment Court. It makes sense for the timing of this work to be aligned with national policy. I am satisfied that the existing plans provide adequate interim measures to deal with these risks in the immediate future," Smith said.
Labour MPs Ruth Dyson and Poto Williams said the Government needed to develop a National Policy Statement on natural hazards before councils had to respond to such issues.
July 2 – City council releases report identifying 6000 properties at risk of erosion and nearly 18,000 susceptible to inundation.
July 17 – First reports of community opposition. Residents consider legal action.
July 30 – Opponents enlist the help of a Kapiti group that successfully fought a similar erosion zoning.
August 21 – Residents push for more time to lodge submissions against the hazard zonings.
September 2 – Residents granted an extra 30 days to submit.
September 29 – Hazard zoning dropped from District Plan review process.