Beachfront property on the Coromandel Peninsula will come under scrutiny with a scientific review of erosion hazard areas known as coastal development setbacks.
Thames-Coromandel District Council has written to beachfront property owners asking for any data they may have collected or photographs they have taken of their property and surrounding beach area to help in refining the existing areas known as coastal development setbacks.
Coastal development setbacks were established in the 1980s and further updated by Environment Waikato in 2002 to ensure a sufficient buffer exists between the forces of the sea and coastal development such as roads and houses.
On all developed beaches there are two coastal setbacks identified: the primary setback defining areas at risk from existing coastal processes and the secondary setback, showing areas that might be affected by projected sea level rise.
Coastal Scientist Jim Dahm, who is among the team undertaking the review, says setback lines are not new and have influenced the location of houses on private property since the 1980s under the Building Act. They only affect property owners building a new house or renovating an existing one.
“In recent years with additional data and improved techniques, it has become evident that some of the setbacks are overly precautionary and the review will make life easier for property owners.
“This is a council that has experience with hazards; they know what the consequences are for property owners and ratepayers, so it’s trying to get a wise policy that minimises the risks, while also minimising restrictions on people’s use of their property,” he says. “We’re more conscious of the environment we’re building in, and we’re making sure we avoid, where we can, high risk hazards like coastal erosion or coastal flooding.”
Mr Dahm says at present development is generally allowed in front of secondary setbacks but with a note on the title highlighting to future owners the potential risk of erosion in the longer term (50-100 years) and requiring that the house be relocatable. Houses are not allowed seaward of the high risk zone, identified by the primary setbacks. “This ensures the house is secure even when nature throws the worst possible storm at it.”
TCDC Senior Policy Planner Katherine Davies says a review of setbacks based on new hazard assessment techniques will ensure that future rules more accurately reflect the risk from storms and ocean swells.
She says the review has come about as a result of feedback received during informal consultation on the council's draft Natural Hazards Plan Change in early 2007. “The comments received identified new information relating to coastal processes and beach dynamics and this in turn meant existing setbacks could be further refined.”
The review will be made only at sites where setbacks are known to impact on properties.
It is intended that the reviewed setbacks will be incorporated into the Thames-Coromandel District Plan via a plan change once the review work is completed.
A draft of amended setbacks are expected to be discussed with property owners in September-October and other beach users and ratepayers will be asked for comment before the review is finalised at the end of the year.