Coastal Erosion Issues – Which Council Decides What To Do? – Its Complicated.

There has been quite a lot of publicity recently about erosion at Buffalo Beach, Whitianga, and at Whangamata.  Some members of the public are agitating for either or both councils to take immediate action to build a seawall, or groynes. Waikato Regional Council (WRC) and Thames-Coromandel District Council (TCDC) both have responsibility for coastal issues, so it is not surprising there is quite a lot of confusion as to “who does what”. 

TCDC has produced this useful graphic which helps with the “who does what” issue. 

There is more detail in this document

Essentially, WRC’s Regional Coastal Plan (Coastal Plan) applies to activities below mean high water springs (MHWS) and both WRC’s Waikato Regional Plan (WRP) and TCDC’s District Plan (DP) apply to activities above MHWS.

My understanding is that consent would be needed from TCDC to build a seawall under the DP, if it is above MHWS.

The WRP does not include provisions for seawalls.  However, there are WRC earthworks rules that might apply depending on the length, volume and area of soil disturbance during construction.  Consent for these works may be required. If vehicles or machinery operate below MHWS during construction a consent would also likely be required under the Coastal Plan.

Generally, small scale earthworks and temporary vehicle use can be well managed and a consent process for these activities is unlikely to be complex.  

If the site is above MHWS the substantive issues relating to a proposed seawall structure would fall with TCDC’s jurisdiction.

For a consent application under the DP, TCDC would have to consider the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS) and the Regional Policy Statement (RPS).  From a policy/natural hazards perspective WRC might wish to express a view on such an application.

If there was a proposal to build a groyne that is likely to extend into the Coastal Marine Area consent would be needed from WRC.

If WRC become aware a party was going to breach the RMA in an area under our jurisdiction (construction of a seawall or groyne below MHWS) and WRC have reasonable cause to believe an offence is going to be committed, WRC may need to actively direct the party not to cause such a breach.