By Pauline Stewart.
It was a normal meeting of the Residents and Ratepayers Association of Cooks Beach but developed by the members of the committee into something special with Scott Simpson being invited to be their Guest Speaker. TCDC Councillors - John Grant, Rheka Percival and Deli Connell were also present. Over 75 were in attendance.
The informer came. The issues on the agenda were similar to the agendas of other Residents and Ratepayers gatherings on Coromandel Peninsula: Roads - SH 25A, Parks and reserves, Gold Card, Emergency Response Team, Purangi Road – From Flaxmill to Ferry Landing – slips, Lake’s update. 5 G Towers. some of the issues were as urgent.
Roads – Scott Simpson led off with this issue - a strong presentation that there was simply not enough from central government. Too many businesses were caving and the economy declining. He went further to say that TCDC has not done enough either to change the situation by lobbying and pushing. He was very forthright in pointing a finger at the three TCDC Councillors present. Mayor Len did not escape Simpsons wrath arguing that the mayor seemed to simply accept the ‘lollies’ given out by the current government.
There led to a fiery exchange between TCDC Councillor John Grant and Scott Simpson. John was very clear that there was a huge number of needs all across the Peninsula that required urgent attention and they had little power to get action from central Government.
He is correct. Apart from advocacy there is very little that can be done by TCDC (Councillors and Mayor) to change outcomes as Waka Kotahi is responsible for all aspect of the SH 25A, plus the three councillors present with their colleagues have inherited a litany of what seems to be inaction on a a number fronts to do with roads and infrastructure, some of which were heightened by the cyclones Gabrielle and. Hale and other recent storm events.
Two aspects were not highlighted in the exchange:
1) Scott Simpson’s own ability to enable change in the infrastructure and level of development with the state of roads and bridges in his last four terms as MP.
2) TCDC does have the ability to manage the Tapu-Coroglen Road where nothing in the way of improvement had happened. This was being mentioned by members at this meeting in the course of the debate. There have been funds set aside and a mentioned promise of money from central government Mayor Len saying there was no limits to funds to do this road. (Bowling Club meeting following Gabrielle). People ask, where have those funds gone and why does a geo tech report that locates a potential large slip put back opening the road till December.?
Scott continued. Some of you will remember the Kaikoura earthquakes.
The great coastal Highway One was devastated, far more than SH 25 A. What we did in Kaikoura was set the date by when we wanted that road open - and involved local businesses and contractors. We then asked, “What resources do you need to make that happen?” We got a degree of certainty; that was the target. It is only in the last few weeks have we had any certainty (with SH 25) …. That is impossible for businesses to plan - local people cannot plan with this situation…..Set a date!
People are asking for faster resolution. NO sense of urgency prevails.”
5 G Towers: Tensions were raised in relation to the proposed 5 G Tower. Many in the community feel Connexa does not listen. Scott Simpson was not so fired up as he spoke of knowledge that there was little that could be done by locals - certain angles were required and the positions were set. People don’t want the tower in that particular spot, their issue is with the position not the technology.
Argument from their spokesperson: “The tower is not welcome on the proposed site. We have offered alternative sights. Connexa does not compromise. There are three residences very close to the tower. We have looked after this land; mowed the lawn clear the footpaths. We have never been able to have anything above eight metres in our community, but Connexa can come and without anything as much as a conversation, they put up their ten metre towers. To get consent for the housing development here, the developers had to plant hundreds of trees to be able to plan the subdivision. Where is there any consistency? This site for the tower is also a bus stop. People don’t want their children to stand under a tower.”
Parks and Reserves TCDC This was a positive aspect of the meeting with Sue Costello of Parks and Reserves speaking. She had achieved a lot of progress at Shakespeare Cliff Reserve. There was considerable discussion regarding Purangi Reserve. She challenged people as to whether replacing a Playground was necessary in one of the most beautiful areas in the region. She suggested natural play for children would be superior or something to that effect. People seemed to nod in quiet agreement. She handled different points of view over the bollards in Purangi reserve. There was goodwill over this.
Storm Water, Flooding, Lakes: Many tensions and issues were raised over the urgent nature of some aspects with TCDC and Community Board; meeting attendees expressing dismay at what seemed to be lack of communication and confusion between Community Board, staff and TCDC over processes and progress on various matters.
Question from the floor: What is the national party going to do?
What are their views on the erosion and flooding? (400 kms of coastline)
Scott Simpson’s response: We have massive issues to confirm about costal erosion – sea level rise the stability of our private and public assets, more frequent, more intense weather events in years to come.
The Resource Management Act is currently up for review. The existing RMA has passed its used by date. It is not working for developed environments and/or natural environments.
There are three parts to this coming legislation - 1) is natural built environments 2) Spatial planning legislation and the third part is still to come. This piece relates to Adaption. It will hopefully address the issues you have raised.
Scott Simpson emphasised again the options before people when it became a personal situation in terms of beach erosion and flooding.
1) Adapt - this could mean raising up properties or pick up properties and shift them back. Eg adaptation is the Boating Club - literally picked it up and shifted it back.
2) Second option is to defend. – rock walls, groynes, for example. That is very expensive, and probably ultimately futile. But it buys time. How much time no one can exactly predict.
3) Third option is retreat - this means moving out; leaving your property. How this could be negotiated with councils or governments is yet to be worked out.
Where we stand at this time is there has to be a collaboration between rate payers, property owners and taxpayers. Most of us are all three of those. Here is a real ethical and moral challenge. Say you are an elderly single widow living in a brick and tile home on a hill in Thames. Why should your rates and taxes help pay for a 5-million-dollar property that is now too close to the oceans edge. We need to come to some answers and in a hurry.”
Editor’s note: What was evident is the amount of work done by various residents as volunteers into researching, preparing reports on some of these issues - all because they want to protect and advance their community. The level of volunteerism is extremely high and inspiring. One gentleman, Murray Haycock presented a very detailed report on resolving the storm water and flooding issues as they related to the residences and concerned the lake flow. He was at odds with TCDC on some points that had adversely affected their community in the storm events. He went as far to say that the flooding was not caused by Gabrielle but by poor decision making and lack of the right action in terms of storm water flow. He believed some resolution could be worked out. Chairman Paul Hopkins and Secretary Sidney Lomas are to be commended. People might be frustrated and even angry at times, but they want the system to work efficiently and to believe that their work will be taken seriously. Our elected people want the same things. We keep on.
The issues of the storm water and flooding are ongoing, and the community is in discussion with TCDC. Aspects of different communities regarding storm water, stream flow and erosion will be published in future issues.
Caption: Cooks Beach, NZ