As the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council continues its hearings on its proposed Regional Coastal Plan, emotions are running high.
Residents of eventually-to-be-inundated communities like Mahia,
Bayview, Te Awanga and Haumoana are vigorously challenging various laws
of earth science and hydrology, contending that more sandbags can
indeed stave off sea-level rise and more severe weather events
associated with global warming.
“If the bureaucrats would pay more attention to the recurring
seasonal shortage of sandbag-packers, and less time on engineering
mumbo-jumbo and climate models, we’d be in ship-shape condition,” said Te Awanga property
owner Starbuck Stubb.
Local real estate agents have taken a different approach to the
hearings. Instead of directly challenging the science behind HBRC’s
plan to identify coastal hazard zones, agents have argued that homebuyers will be able to cope just fine with rising sea levels.
Agent Makeme Rich confided, “We couldn’t go right at the science.
That simply wouldn’t be credible. So we’re pushing the Kiwi
Mr. Rich explained this approach: “Yes, we know the sea level is
going to rise. And yes, storms will get more intense and potentially
devastating. But we are launching a new public relations campaign for
beachfront homeowners, called “Survive on Stilts” or SOS.
“There’s no likely rise in sea level that the average homeowner
cannot survive, as long as they use state-of-the-art technology and get
their homes up on stilts,” he continued. “Our practical “Survive on Stilts” program will show innovative existing and prospective
beachfront homeowners how to elevate their homes up to 20 meters above
current high tide levels, where they’ll be perfectly safe.”
To demonstrate the SOS approach in recent HBRC hearings, real estate agents used this photograph of Waverider, the Haumoana ocean retreat of Andy Lowe.
Said Mr. Rich, “This is a splendid example of stilt home
construction, with all modern amenities. Only three months ago, this
house sat in exactly the same spot, but on then dry land. But now it’s
as seaworthy as a sailboat. A rogue wave could flip it over, but it
would right itself within minutes. And the boat ride over from Andy’s on-shore car park space to the home itself takes barely ten minutes. Of course, once you’ve made it there, you can easily cool down by jumping out any window or door of the
house into a refreshing six meters of cool sea water.”
Mr. Rich couldn’t help adding, “You know, I’ve never met a beachfront property I couldn’t sell to some
witless, make that passionate, buyer.”
BayBuzz will continue to monitor developments on the Regional Coastal Plan.
Assuming environmental and other relevant regulations are respected,
we think people should be permitted to live wherever they want, as long
as they are prepared to bear privately the full costs of water and
storm damage to their own property, and not expect the public treasury
to bail them out. The public at large should not pay — whether in the
form of higher rates, danger to emergency or rescue workers, or higher
home insurance costs — for the folly of homeowners who choose to put
their head (and stilts) in the sand.
And appropriate council staff should consider their duty to clearly
inform prospective new buyers of coastal property of the potential
risks and liabilities they are taking aboard when buying in hazard
zones. Such disclosure is far beyond what we can routinely expect from
commission-seeking real estate agents.