In a welcome development, Thames-Coromandel Mayor Sandra Goudie has stated that the need for Thames “to find another area for housing development for potential adaptation purposes where we incrementally can move from the coast” is “absolutely essential”.
To my knowledge this is the first time that the Mayor and the Council have acknowledged the necessity to plan for managed retreat from Thames’s coastal margins because of the risk of present and future sea level rise and severe coastal flooding due to the climate crisis.
These comments were made at TCDC’s meeting on 12 May in relation to a proposed new spatial plan which was given the green light. The plan intends to investigate why and how new Thames housing development should be located on hill-country land south of Thames towards Puriri.
This belated realisation by our Mayor and Council of the severe risks that coastal areas of Thames face due to climate change and sea level rise is most welcome. It’s just a pity that concerns I and others have been raising about these risks for many years have not been actioned earlier. Valuable years and opportunities to respond to the crisis have been lost.
Mayor Sandra Goudie’s comments are viewable on YouTube –
Here is a verbatim record
….. “We need to do this for a number of reasons. …… Thames is chronically short of houses and we need to find another area for housing development for potential adaptation purposes where we incrementally can move from the coast. So this actually has to happen…..
And can I say that in working with Hauraki District Council we look to at some point in the future no doubt be holding hands with them potentially as they start to do the same thing along that hill country. So basically, going to higher ground. This is absolutely essential, so yeah I totally support this going forward.”
The spatial plan report strongly emphasises the need to consider coastal flooding due to the climate crisis, and other natural hazards when planning for future housing development. It contains this map taken from Waikato Regional Council’s coastal flooding tool.
The spatial plan also states (page 20) that the Thames wastewater plant is “currently reaching capacity” and “it is likely that the plant will need to be relocated”. The wastewater plant is situated right beside the proposed new regional aquatic centre.
No comprehensive risk assessment for coastal flooding has yet been carried out for the Thames’ coast. That will be a function of the Shoreline Management Plans which will be developed this year, starting with Thames, with the assistance of soon to be appointed Community Panels. All of the options for adaptation to these risks will have to be considered – including retreat.
Other comments made by Mayor Goudie in the Hauraki Herald (22 May 2020) suggest that the penny has finally dropped about the high risk Thames faces from sea level rise and coastal flooding and the need to develop land on higher land away from the coast – ie. managed retreat. –
“the last big storm we had (2018) showed that we are desperate for additional housing on higher ground, out of coastal areas.”
The shoreline management plans will focus on the unique circumstances of coastal communities and aim to provide some solutions for residents to consider.
It could include managed retreat, moving houses back from the coastline, or relocating people to housing on higher ground.”