Published 4 July 2008
The Environmental Defence Society wants to increase safeguards against urban sprawl along the New Zealand coastline and says the proposed national coastal policy statement will not achieve that aim.
The society has its eye on getting a stronger coastal policy statement than that proposed in a review now going through its consultative phase. The Department of Conservation received 535 submissions and has identified 32 themes in a report covering 2500 pages in 4 volumes. The department’s report back to the minister has been deferred from the end of September to December.
Senior policy analyst for the society, Raewyn Peart, said on Monday the original policy statement, written in 1994, had good intentions but, in spite of them, “we have got coastal sprawl.” Outlining sprawl north of Auckland, she highlighted the area from Waipu through Lang’s Beach & Lang’s Cove, “now carpeted by large houses, and it’s really difficult to see how those houses have been designed to fit into that environment.
Ms Peart was speaking at the society’s launch of the non-litigious NZ Coastal Trust, which has 3 founding trustees – lawyer David McGregor, the society’s president, Gary Taylor, and herself.
Mr Taylor said: "We need a non-government entity that is focused purely on voluntary efforts to protect the coast. A key objective of the trust is to enable public access. It will not litigate on coastal development matters. That will remain the prerogative of EDS."
Ms Peart, continuing her outline of coastal sprawl, said: “Mangawhai is sprawling up to the headland, about 1800 houses have been built and 100 vacant lots are yet to be built on, and soon there may be another 850 houses just across the inlet at Te Arai. There’s been pressure also at Bream Bay to put development up there, so I would argue the existing coastal policy statement has not stopped sprawl.”
She said the houses now appearing on the top of hills behind Russell, in the Bay of Islands, were a typical example of how housing development had changed from the typical pattern of being on the toe behind the beach to making a more overt statement.
“The built environment dominates the natural environment. We’ve got excessive landbanking – soaking up land and predetermining for the next several generations how they want to see the coast.
“At Doubtless Bay there are 3600 dwellings & 2000 vacant sites, but annual pre-boom sales were only about 50/year. A lot of this subdivision is not driven by people who want a bach by the beach but by speculative subdividers. At Mangawhai, sales flew up over the last 10 years as people flicked sections on, with no relationship to end-user demand.”
Against that rush of urban development, Ms Peart said, “We need certainty of protection for those areas of coastal wilderness we still have. At the moment all the coast is up for grabs, irrespective of any coastal management plan or urban design plan. We need firm urban boundaries. We need rural-residential development which restores the coast and keeps rural as rural, not large-lot urban development on the coast.
“We need to keep those buildings off the headlands, the ridgelines & the coastal edge and we need to link supply & demand.”
Ms Peart said the inadequacies of the proposed replacement coastal statement would make protection worse: “There is no clear direction on where development should or should not go, no protection for those undeveloped areas of the coast. We need areas identified on maps – policies just don’t do it. We need to be quite specific about what areas can not be developed.”
Councils had been hard-pressed to do this sort of work, but ought to have more time available as the market in coastal property entered a downturn. Ms Peart said well designed settlements could result from careful mapping with precise restrictions in place.
Planning consultant Greg Hill, who was recently the Auckland Regional Council’s policy & planning general manager, felt the proposed policy statement was too prescriptive: “It uses the word ‘shall’ an awful lot. We do need more certainty, but I think it’s gone too far, got too prescriptive. The document is, by its nature, high level and shouldn’t get down to too much detail.”
Mr Hill saw a danger in prescription resulting in small settlements being developed into larger towns and losing the amenity people went there for in the first place. At the same time there was no need to develop new settlements: “We know, in the rural & coastal areas around Auckland, we have over 40 years’ supply. The question is how do we use that up rather than develop new areas.”
2 November 2007: EDS analyst sends clear messages on muddy coastal issues
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Attribution: Trust launch function, story written by Bob Dey for this website.