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Strategy In ‘echo Chamber’?

WOW history of coastal protection published

Coastal protection group WOW warns community concerns about the eroding coastline are not being taken seriously and the Clifton to Tangoio Coastal Hazards Strategy may be “stuck in an echo chamber”.

“As we head toward the final ‘implementation’ Stage 4 of Strategy 2120, the latest designs, costings and managed retreat reports for the Cape Coast do not inspire confidence,” says retiring WOW Inc chairman Keith Newman.

WOW has released an analysis of coastal protection efforts along the Cape Coast since the 1960s called Saving the Cape Coast, as a legacy document to mark its 14-year tenure representing the local community. It says the Strategy, now the template for all coastal protection, fails to address serious community concerns.

Ahead of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) taking full control of the Strategy from August 2024, questions remain, including who pays, whether any of this will be affordable to vulnerable communities or indeed pass the consenting process, says Newman.

The big problem is the failure of central Government to support the ‘nation-leading’ Strategy with the necessary legislation to enable less prescriptive approaches to what can be done on the coast.

“The Strategy, and recent reports from Tonkin+Taylor and Mitchell Daysh, recommends the Government and HBRC change coastal and related regulatory policy to enable more adaptable responses to sea-level rise and climate change.”

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Rather than getting on with the job as Hastings City Council has done with the Clifton and Cape View Corner walls, Newman says successive joint council efforts have made large scale protection unaffordable.

Strategy 2120 pathways for Haumoana, Te Awanga and Clifton include building up the shingle crest, seawalls and groynes but, he says the design cost the engineers (Beya and Asmat for HBRC) have come up with is astronomical.

For example, he says the stipulation that shingle held on the beach by groynes needs to replaced with an equivalent amount from a distant source, possibly Central Hawke’s Bay, is nuts, says Newman.

That represents hundreds of truckloads, in some cases amounting to one third of the total amount of shingle (2.4m cubic metres) taken from Awatoto and local rivers by Winstones since 1943.

“This seems to be contrary to everything we’re hearing about reducing carbon emissions let alone whether HBRC can locate and consent that amount of shingle.”

Newman says, it just doesn’t make sense and adds millions into the overall cost of protecting the area which ranges from $45.3m at the low end to $254m at the high end. Managed retreat would cost even more than that although the same level of detail is not available in the Tonkin+Taylor retreat report.

While the Strategy might suggest it is providing an innovative response to coastal hazards, Newman says to date there’s been an unwillingness for HBRC to use ‘discretion’ in applying its own policy documents. “The big risk is that it’s business as usual when HBRC takes over.”

Hastings District Council (HDC) independently supported the Clifton wall and the Cape View corner wall but Newman says. there’s still much to do including sorting out overtopping and flooding at lower Haumoana, preventing further damage at Cape View Corner and acting to prevent inundation at the Te Awanga Lagoon and carpark.

“The literal edge remains under threat not only from wild weather and waves but the most recent Strategy designs for the Cape Coast that more than double the cost of previous joint council or WOW Inc proposals.”

Newman says the Strategy will most likely attempt to levy the bulk of costs, 90% in the past, on coastal dwellers as ‘beneficiaries’ rather than considering the wider value of beach access, reserves, lagoons, wetlands and tourism that benefits all Hawke’s Bay residents.

“It’s like we’re living in an echo chamber,” says Newman who, as part of WOW, has been wrangling with councils for 14-years to find more affordable Cape Coast protection.

In the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, new groups raised old concerns that Cape Coast flooding, drainage and coastal protection infrastructure are not fit for purpose. “There’s now been a merger of interests to ensure those groups speak with a single voice,” says Newman.

Consequently WOW is handing over its role to a new coastal and flood protection group under the Cape Coast Community Group (CCCG) already working alongside a joint council action team to try and resolve these concerns.

In a parting effort, WOW has produced a 100-page book covering off historical coastal protection efforts, chronicling its own efforts and those of Haumoana Ratepayers, Te Awanga Progressive Association (TAPA) and the emergence of Strategy 2120.

Newman describes the book as “a record of hopes, aspirations and warnings” and an urgent call to think differently, more creatively and collaboratively.

“Times, circumstances and governments change, hopefully along with attitudes.

Saving the Cape Coast

is an encouragement for central and local authorities to do a better job of working alongside at-risk communities and to imagine a fresh approach to coastal and flood protection,” says Newman.

The limited-edition

Saving the Cape Coast

: A legacy of frustration and hope, a history of coastal protection 1931-2023, was compiled and written by Newman on behalf of WOW and all coastal battlers.

Copies are being gifted to current and former members of WOW, Coastal Hazards Committee members and local council representatives along with several copies deposited with Hastings Library. Copies are available for $30 including postage within New Zealand contact

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