Government overrides Christchurch council and dumps sea rise hazard
The government has overridden Christchurch City Council and dumped a proposed controversial and wealth-destroying sea rise hazard plan.
Much of the credit goes to commercial property developer Mark Munro, who owns property at the seaside suburb of New Brighton, assisted by his public relations spokesman David Lynch.
The coastal hazard plan involved tagging 18,600 land titles, forbidding any kind of development including house extensions, and leading to property devaluation and insurance premium hikes.
The proposed plan was supported by a Tonkin & Taylor report based on worst case scenarios about sea rise over the next 100 years.
A similar plan was abandoned for Kapiti District in 2012 after a judicial review driven by residents.
The district plan was being dealt with under the provisions of the government’s Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act and would have disallowed appeals except on points of law.
Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel has performed a backward flip by welcoming the government's decision to remove coastal hazards from the district plan review process.
City council natural environment manager Helen Beaumont was behind the natural hazards chapter in the plan.
But the city council and government were themselves moving ahead with several coastal ventures including building two new schools on the former QE11 site, redevelopment of civic amenities at New Brighton and Sumner, as well as enlarging the Burwood landfill, which is about 100m from the sea at Waimari Beach
If the natural hazards plan held water, all of these plans should have been under review.
Furthermore, provisions in the now-abandoned chapter would have forbidden construction of sea walls – for environmental reasons.
Over the past three weeks developer Mr Munro and a small team of helpers galvanised local support with public meetings, writing a letter to Prime Minister John Key and meeting city councillors, Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee, Associate Minister Nicky Wagner and Environment Minister Nick Smith.
“These coastal planning issues relating to potential sea level rises over 100 years do not need to be fast-tracked as part of Canterbury’s earthquake recovery. This is a complex issue that is better dealt with through the Christchurch City Council’s normal plan review process. This alternative approach for dealing with coastal hazards has been developed in partnership with the Christchurch City Council and mayor Lianne Dalziel, and recognises that the immediate priority needs to be on Christchurch’s earthquake recovery,” the ministers say in a joint statement.
“The coastal hazard proposals in the council’s draft plan have caused concern for communities like New Brighton, Southshore and Sumner. We should not allow our thinking to become so cautious that we block development in areas on the premise of worst case scenarios of sea level rise. We need to take the time on such far-reaching rules to rigorously test restrictions from both an economic and a risk management perspective,” Ms Wagner says.
“We are proposing both legislative change and national policy guidance on such hazards as part of our Resource Management Act reform programme.
The cabinet’s decision requires the drafting of an order in council. The change in scope to exclude coastal hazards from the fast-track process will be advanced as quickly as possible.
“The government acknowledges the advocacy of local residents' groups who have sought this revised approach. This deferral is an opportunity for the councils and communities to re-engage and find a better way to deal with these coastal hazards risks,” the ministers concluded.