Smart Council Maps

In recent weeks and months I have issued a few brickbats to the Thames Coromandel District Council but this week it is time for a bouquet. The Council has done an excellent job with its Smart Maps Portal on their website.

A range of maps is available including Property Information, Planning Building and Resource consents, (some but not all) Hazards, and Civil Defence information including tsunami hazard zones. Have a look – it’s really worth having a look around and seeing what is available. Continue reading

Blueprint – How to Consult on Coastal Hazards/Climate Change

My previous blog highlighted haphazard Council planning around identifying all coastal hazards, and the lack of public consultation and engagement.

Fortunately, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel about public consultation and engagement on climate change adaption and sea level rise.  There is a good blueprint from 2010 in Whitianga.  NIWA held an Open Day followed by a Workshop for Whitianga residents about changes to the coastline under climate change, and how they might adapt.  Unfortunately, with the election of a new Mayor and Council in late 2010 all this great momentum was lost, and no further similar meetings have occurred.

Take Action

If you agree that the time is well overdue for YOUR Peninsula community to be consulted about coastal hazards and climate change – then take action and email all or any of :-

Continue reading

Haphazard Planning For Coromandel Coastal Hazards

Who should pay over $1 million to attempt to protect a few east coast beaches from coastal erosion?  A narrowly focused debate is presently underway in Council as to whether just Mercury Bay or all District ratepayers should pay. Deplorably, this debate is taking place in an information and policy vacuum. If you want to request that the Council sets up community engagement/information meetings on coastal hazards and climate change in your town – see below for email addresses.

First, is the plan really about protecting the beaches?  The community engagement to achieve mass planting and the move away from “hard” structures is laudable.   But is the unspoken purpose really an attempt to capture public funds to try to protect privately-owned homes unwisely built on or near the sand dunes?  And does the plan have any realistic hope of even medium-term success when factoring in just conservative projections for sea level rise, or is the plan a futile waste of money?  Has the plan been peer-reviewed by independent climate change experts and has any cost-benefit analysis been done?   The plan makes only a passing reference to sea level rise impacts.  Has the option of letting the beaches naturally migrate inland been seriously considered? 

Second, the Regional and District Councils have failed to identify all coastal hazards on the Peninsula, including by inundation due to sea level rise.  This is legally required by Government directive.

Third, there is no coherent policy to inform residents or the Councils themselves about many of these hazards, or to determine when District-wide ratepayer funds should be spent.

Fourth, no has consideration been given how potentially massive future costs will be funded or even afforded when erosion and inundation flooding occurs around much of the Coromandel coastline.  The Mercury Bay decision will set a hugely important precedent. Continue reading

Friend-to-Friend Lift Sharing In Small Towns

An exciting new social media app called Localift has recently been launched which dovetails perfectly with the public transport minibus transport service for  Thames   Localift is a friend-to-friend lift sharing App which makes it incredibly easy to manage and share free local lifts between people you know. 

downloadThe App integrates and brings together all the elements of smart phones/tablets and social media such as your Facebook of other friend networks, mapping, messaging and calendars.  It makes it incredibly simple and safe for family, friends, and colleagues to share free lifts:-

 

  • Lifts for children to and from school, sports and activities.
  • Lifts for workers to carpool to work
  • Lifts for the elderly and people with disabilities
  • Lifts for young adults for social events and sports.

Continue reading

Gold Miner Wants to Evade $500,000+ Repair of Sinkhole It Created

A US-based gold mining company (Coeur Gold) has failed to properly back-fill its underground mine at Waitekauri near Waihi causing a large 40m wide sinkhole to collapse into the Empire Vein mine workings about 15 years later in 2013.  The hole has opened a pathway for acidic leachate and heavy metal toxins to pollute ground water and streams. The regulators of the mine – the Waikato Regional Council (WRC) and Hauraki District Council (HDC) have taken no steps for nearly 4 years to require Coeur Gold to remedy the sinkhole. Nor have they taken any enforcement action for possible breach of its resource consents or mining licence.  Coeur Gold has recently suggested to the regulators that rather than the company paying around $500,000 to fix the problem it created  – the sinkhole should remain as a “vital reminder for future generations of what can happen” on mine sites.   I kid you not.  I am not making this up. Continue reading

A Perfect (Fire) Storm For Thames Coromandel

A combination of historical events and climate change are producing an environment for a perfect (fire) storm in the hills above Thames, and elsewhere on the Coromandel Peninsula. The recent serious fires at Moanataiari near Thames and at Kaimarama near Whitianga are an indication of a clear and present danger of increased fire risk in our region.

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We have been warned about the increased fire risk from more severe drought caused by climate change for more than a decade. For example the NIWA Fire Research Report from 2005 warned of more severe fire weather and fight danger, and a string of warnings from the IPPC, the Ministry for the Environment, the Prime Minister’s Science and Advisory Committee, and the Royal Society of New Zealand have followed.  This makes a nonsense of Prime Minister Bill English’s claim that “no one could have anticipated the large-scale fire on the Port’s Hill” near Christchurch.

Figures released last month by NIWA show that 2016 was the hottest year on record for New Zealand, with record or near-record breaking temperatures for many locations.  This is the stark reality of global warming.   It should not come as a surprise to Bill English or anyone else that the firestorms we have seen in Canterbury, Hawke’s Bay Northland and Coromandel in recent months are in the very places that experts have been warning us would suffer increased droughts and fire risk.

The other major but overlooked factor causing increased fire risk for Thames is the legacy of gold mining in the 19th century.  Not only did gold mining leave a toxic legacy of streams and the foreshore polluted with heavy metals – the hills above Thames from the Hape stream to the Tararu stream were stripped bare of any vegetation.  This also occurred close to other settlements where mining took place.

 

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Una Hill Thames
Gold mining batteries Moanataiari ATL
Moanataiari Valley Thames

“Kanuka, manuka, grey scrub, bracken – a huge mass of dry fuel – soon abounded.  European settlers then added (privet,) gorse, broom, wattles, eucalypts and pines and the ecological scene changed again.  Not only did these plants promote fire, they flourished because of it, re-sprouting after fire as few native plants do, releasing abundant seeds that thrived in the nutrient-rich ash and cleared landscape. This paints a rather grim picture of a vicious and irreversible cycle of fire and regrowth

 

What we need is an ambitious revegetation programme that will support fire-resistant indigenous species and reduce those risks.  There are plenty of people who would support the removal of privet which is rapidly spreading over the hills behind Thames.  A coordinated program to replace introduced plants and weeds such as privet with native species will:-

  • improve the health of many who suffer respiratory problems,
  • enhance the ecology of Thames’ hinterland, 
  • provide much stronger protection against the more frequent fires which will inevitably occur due to climate change.

Living Wage For Council Workers

Thames-Coromandel is ideally suited to become a Living Wage District.  It ranks as the 4th lowest District in New Zealand for median household income.  Local incomes have increased at half the rate of many similar rural Districts, and we have levels of social deprivation at the extreme end of the scale.  Housing unaffordability is shockingly almost on par with Auckland.   Inconvenient truths.

Many local families experience hardship or poverty despite having one or two adults in paid work. Of the 270,000 children estimated to be living in poverty in New Zealand, two in five come from households where at least one person is in full-time work or self-employed. Continue reading