11 January 2006
Environmental Defence Society warns against Ohiwa spit property sale: another Matata is likely
The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) is alarmed to see newly emerging duneland on the Ohiwa Spit in the Bay of Plenty being advertised for sale.
"People seem to have very short memories," said Raewyn Peart, Senior Policy Analyst for the Society.
"It was only 30 years ago that houses in the same area were swept into the sea by powerful storm surges. Development of this land will create another disaster waiting to happen especially given the likelihood of sea level rises and more extreme weather events as a result of climate change.
"There is much to be learnt from the history of the area. A hotel was built on the spit during the 1ate 1800s and dunes surrounding the hotel were subdivided during the early 1920s to create a township. Only a few years later the township was abandoned because of severe erosion and the main street ended up in the middle of a tidal channel.
"But people still didn't learn from that disaster. In 1949 a new subdivision was created further down the spit. It was not long, however, before erosion threatened these new properties. Many also ended up under the tide and were abandoned after another severe storm in 1976.
"When the land went under the water, some people retained their titles to the land and others received compensation.
"In a huge irony, some were offered the opportunity to buy property at Matata, an area that is itself now devastated by floods.
"Over the past 20 years the sand on Ohiwa Spit has been rebuilding or acreting, but it will only be a matter of time before erosion sets in again. It appears that some property owners are trying to capitalise on their newly risen sea front land by on-selling it.
"The advertisement in the Property Press for the sale of the property at 2 Ohiwa Beach Road suggests 'Let the Pacific waves sing you an evening lullaby to end a perfect day'. That lullaby could easily turn into a nightmare when the waves get too close.
"Surely, sense must prevail to avoid history repeating itself a third time. The area has high ecological and recreational values and should be brought into the conservation estate. As the residents of Matata struggle to rebuild their community, authorities must act to prevent future tragedies.
"At the very least the local council should indicate now that it won't issue building permits for those properties," Raewyn Peart concluded.