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12 April, 2002
Killing the Beachfront Barbie
By Peter Cresswell
As part of a nationwide project for the Discovery Channel, Helen Clark is travelling the country with the Channel's
cameramen to "show 120 million viewers what this country has to offer." This week, the Hauraki Herald boasted a
front-page photograph of Helen Clark at Waihi Beach with her parents, enjoying a family barbecue at "the beachfront home
of family friends." My first thought on seeing them surrounded by cameramen was: Why were the Clarks all wrapped up in
their thermals?! One sight of the family's thermals will surely do more then anything else to destroy Waihi's
sun-drenched reputation with the Channel's 120 million viewers?
Why, I wondered, did Ms Clark not adopt the 'Baywatch' policy when filming in such obviously arctic circumstances -
bravely donning her swimming cossie, gritting her teeth, and showing a brave face to the international audience? Or did
the Discovery Channel's director perhaps fear for the adverse effect of a cossie-clad Clark on his viewers?
In any case, viewers curious about "what this country has to offer" should certainly be made aware that enjoyment of
such beachfront property is now increasingly difficult under the loathsome Resource Management Act (RMA), an act that
the Labour Party wrote, and that all parliamentary parties support - and one that Jeanette Fitzsimons' Environment
Committee promises to make even more onerous, should she be returned after the election!
Under the RMA, beachfront property owners at Waihi Beach and around the country face savage planning restrictions on
what they are allowed to build on their beachfront property. To the obvious glee of council planners, the District Plans
they write under the RMA mean that many beachfront properties are essentially being nationalised in order to create
Owners of beachfront property at Waihi Beach and at Papamoa have taken their respective councils to the Environment
Court at great expense to challenge these Plans, but the results have not - unfortunately - been very pretty. It seems
that council planners have a free hand to carry on with their abuse of property rights with the applause of the courts
and of parliament.
The argument goes that the "intrinsic value" of the environment is what the RMA is supposed to protect, and therefore
planners are simply protecting the 'intrinsic value' of such coastal environmental processes as erosion, "dune
accretion," and "flooding during a storm." Property owners seeking to avoid, remedy or mitigate the effects of these
so-called 'intrinsic values' on their properties are, as you would expect, stopped from doing so by the planners' rules.
Building a new beachfront home under these rules is increasingly difficult, and if flooding or erosion threatens
existing homes then owners are prohibited from doing anything to stop this natural process; instead, as happened in
Gisborne some years ago, they are expected to watch their homes fall into the sea - only to then be prosecuted for
despoiling the seashore!
The planners' rules make it enormously difficult, and enormously expensive, to build anything humanly desirable on a
beachfront section. For example, property owners may only propose building on their section as far back from the sea as
their site will allow. Before being granted consent to build, they must demonstrate to the planners how they will
relocate their new house to a new site if a sand dune comes within 8m - including showing planners that they possess
another (empty) site to which they can relocate their (now used) house! If they seek to protect themselves from any
threatening dune movement, they will of course find that there are rules preventing them from stopping the 'intrinsic
value' of such movement. Further, in some areas they are required by law to monitor "the toe of the foredune"; the
Western Bay of Plenty District Plan, for example, requires that this toe "be accurately measured every two years by the
landowner or their agent with the results reported to Council."
Other rules prevent them doing very much to existing houses. Excavation is 'limited' in these 'Coastal Protection Areas'
to 'minor activities' - often interpreted by planners to prohibit any excavation for any new building at all, and
usually interpreted to prohibit anybody building seaward-facing decks, such as the one Ms Clark and her family were
filmed enjoying for the Discovery Channel!
It seems that if politicians and planners have their way, the days of enjoying a beachfront barbie on a beachfront deck
may soon be over.
Unless, perhaps, you are a family friend of the Prime Minister.
© Libz.org 2001
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