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.”
The issue of sea level rise is a complex one, and not one Councils should be doing in isolation, and rushing through.
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.
We have robust data showing there has been sea level increases in NZ. From 1900 to 2000 the sea level in Auckland increased 16 cm, or 1.6 mm a year. While this rate has been increasing globally, in Auckland it does not yet appear to be accelerating. It will to some degree, but we don’t know to what degree. And hence rushing through LIM notations on properties when the data is not yet clear, is unwise.