Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson has just released a new NZ Coastal Policy Statement (download here).
The NZCPS 2010 provides direction to how local authorities and decision-makers should approach the management and protection of coastal resources in regional plans, district plans, regional policy statements, etc. It is not a law or regulation, but plans must ‘give effect’ to relevant provisions of the statement. Decision-makers on resource consents must ‘have regard’ to its relevant provisions.
The NZCPS sets out policies on coastal issues including protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes, planning for subdivision, use, and development, protection of biodiversity and water quality, and management of coastal hazard risks.
Most (if not all) of the key issues identified in the Statement apply here in Hawke’s Bay. For example:
- loss of natural character, landscape values and wild or scenic areas along extensive areas of the coast, particularly in areas closer to population centres or accessible for rural residential development;
- continuing decline in species, habitats and ecosystems in the coastal environment under pressures from subdivision and use, vegetation clearance, loss of intertidal areas, plant and animal pests, poor water quality, and sedimentation in estuaries and the coastal marine area;
- poor and declining coastal water quality in many areas as a consequence of point and diffuse sources of contamination, including stormwater and wastewater discharges;
- adverse effects of poor water quality on aquatic life and opportunities for aquaculture, mahinga kai gathering and recreational uses such as swimming and kayaking;
- continuing coastal erosion and other natural hazards that will be exacerbated by climate change and which will increasingly threaten existing infrastructure, public access and other coastal values as well as private property.
Remedial policies are set forth for each of these areas. The new statement will take effect as of December 3rd.
Says Minister Wikinson: “The emphasis is on local councils to produce plans that more clearly identify where development will need to be constrained to protect special areas of the coast.”
More specifically, Policy 7 of the Policy Statement requires regional/local planners to:
“In preparing regional policy statements, and plans:
(a) consider where, how and when to provide for future residential, rural residential, settlement, urban development and other activities in the coastal environment at a regional and district level, and:
(b) identify areas of the coastal environment where particular activities and forms of subdivision, use and development:
(i) are inappropriate; and
(ii) may be inappropriate without the consideration of effects through a resource consent application, notice of requirement for designation or Schedule 1 of the RMA process;
and provide protection from inappropriate subdivision, use and development in these areas through objectives, policies and rules.”
And Policy 13:
“To preserve the natural character of the coastal environment and to protect it from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development:
(a) avoid adverse effects of activities on natural character in areas of the coastal environment with outstanding natural character; and
(b) avoid significant adverse effects and avoid, remedy or mitigate other adverse effects of activities on natural character in all other areas of the coastal environment;
(c) assessing the natural character of the coastal environment of the region or district, by mapping or otherwise identifying at least areas of high natural character; and:
(d) ensuring that regional policy statements, and plans, identify areas where preserving natural character requires objectives, policies and rules, and include those provisions.”
Importantly to our WOW readers along the Cape Coast, with respect to coastal hazard risk, the Policy Statement (Policies 25-27) aims to “discourage hard protection structures and promote the use of alternatives to them, including natural defences” but does not rule such structures out.
A leading advocate for coastal protection, Environmental Defence Society’s Raewyn Peart commented approvingly: “…the statement appears to require councils to provide much greater certainty about where development can take place and where the coast should be protected from subdivision and development. Councils will now have an obligation to actually identify areas for protection. There is also greater clarity on the protection of outstanding natural landscapes and outstanding natural features on the coast. Councils will now have to ensure that they are mapped and adverse effects on them are avoided.”
The NZCPS 2010 will be an important tool for Hawke’s Bay environmentalists to master and use.