Keith Newman, retiring WOW chairman

Coastal protection group WOW is handing over its role to a new coastal and flood protection group, the Cape Coast Community Group (CCCG), to try and resolve concerns around Cape Coast flooding, drainage and coastal protection infrastructure being ‘not fit for purpose’.

CCCG is the successor to the Te Awanga Progressive Association. CCCG’s vision is “to unify, beautify and celebrate the coastal villages of Haumoana, Te Awanga, and Clifton as a great place to live, work, play and visit.”

Retiring WOW Inc chairman Keith Newman said in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle, several resilience-focused groups were formed, and community meetings took place, with locals concerned that coastal and flood protection systems are no longer fit for purpose.

The groups came together and detailed key issues facing the community.

He said the result was a meeting between leaders from the Cape Coast and the Hastings and Regional councils on 12 September, convened by Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst and attended by Regional Council Chair, Hinewai Ormsby, both councils’ chief executives, and senior officers from Hastings District Council (HDC).

The meeting resulted in an agreement to establish a working group to address concerns around flood and coastal protection systems.

In debriefing sessions WOW and CCCG met separately and agreed to merge their interests.

CCCG President Honey Lee Blakeney-Cabot said the year was a catalyst to a “renewed approach to how we come together as community and work with our councils. There’s a renewed vigour and fresh ideas, and we’re keen to continue working collectively.”

“Rather than duplicating voices around similar goals and aspirations it made sense to have a single body with the best interests of the Cape Coast in mind,” said Newman.

He said WOW stood on the shoulders of multiple community groups.

“Over the past 15 years we gave this unique stretch of coastline the name ‘Cape Coast’, and ‘Save the Cape Coast’ became our logo as we passionately sought to raise the profile of this area and ensure its coastal, flood and stormwater systems were fit for purpose.”

He said the WOW legacy includes support for the installation and expansion of the Clifton limestone revetment wall (2016-2018), an end to Winstone’s mining at Awatoto (2016-17), lobbying long and hard for beach crest restoration and maintenance (2016-2018 and ongoing), and the building of the Cape View Corner revetment wall (2021).

“We provided encouragement and perhaps incentive as a strong local voice on behalf of our wider community, but in the end a great many people made those things happen including local councillors, council officers and artful contractors who know how to move rocks around and get things done.”

WOW Inc will deregister as a charitable trust, some members will join CCCG or become willing cheerleaders for the new group, said Newman.

“The renewed Cape Coast group is working with a joint council action team to resolve concerns around storm, flood water and coastal protection to ensure our section of the Hawke’s Bay coast is better prepared, protected and connected.”

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.

“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,” said Newman.

WOW released the 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 said the strategy, now the template for all coastal protection, failed to address serious community concerns.

It was compiled and written by Newman on behalf of WOW and all coastal battlers.

He described Saving the Cape Coast 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.”

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  1. Keith Newman has been an absolute legend in this space and I really admire him for what he has done for the East Coast. He was the voice of the coastal community when the council/s weren’t listening to them.

  2. Would love a copy of the book please.
    Good to have the history to read & keep & for younger family members.
    You will be missed Keith.
    I hope you go in good heart, not too sadly.

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