Kāpiti Council Prepares for Coastal Retreat — & Paying the Victims

The Kāpiti Coast District Council is watching closely a compensation decision for flood victims in the small Bay of Plenty town of Matata, reports Jeremy Smith.

Kapit Coast District Council HQ in Paraparaumu

Three-way split

He says it’s called a three-way split, which is where the money will come from for victims of the 2005 Matata floods, who will be forced to leave.

And the rationale for the $15-million compensation package is a word that’s being heard around  Kāpiti – managed retreat.

Matata flooding

First the history: debris flooding down a stream at Matata devastated the community, and for seven years the Whakatane District Council tried engineering solutions to stop further flooding.

Then they decided the engineering approach was pointless and offered compensation. 

Where the money will come from

Now in 2019 Whakatane is proposing a buy-out funded jointly by them, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the government.

Once the deal is done the land will be rezoned so that the current residents can no longer live there, the managed retreat.

Kapiti Mayor Gurunathan says the Matata three-way funding formula is a useful response.
“I think it has set a precedent for those councils caught in a similar dilemma.”

‘A useful response’ says Kapiti Mayor K Gurunathan

The mayor says the law requires councils to tell any prospective property owners about natural hazards.

Legal challenges can cause delays

But he says when property values are at stake legal challenges can question the science of the hazard, which is what the Kapiti based Coastal Ratepayers United group went to court about.

Mayor Gurunathan also notes that Greater Wellington Regional Council is working towards a managed retreat in a non-built-up area along the coast at Queen Elizabeth Park.

“As for Kāpiti,our journey will be a community-led initiative to explore the different options. Working collaboratively through a co-designed process is the only way to find solutions.”

A spokesperson for the Local Government Association says councils will need national direction on how to approach managed retreat from areas exposed to natural hazards.

He describes “managed retreat as “untested territory.”

He says an LGNZ paper from legal expert Jack Hodder warns that without overall direction these issues of compensation and managed retreat will end up in court.

  • And a final note.. the website for the Coastal Ratepayers United describes managed retreat as originally proposed for Kapiti as an “absurd policy”.

The Matatā problem is not about compensating victims of the 2005 event as your article claimed: some victims left, others rebuilt (presumably with insurance proceeds), after being assured by the Council that it was okay to do so. Council has now decided that the risk is unacceptable, and intends to force the owners from their homes. That is where the question of compensation comes from.
But the actual risk is absurdly small. In a study commissioned by the Council (Davies 2017), the risk contour lines for the area were for one debris flow in 1,000 years, one in 10,000 years, and one in 100,000 years! This was the basis on which it has been decided that the risk to life is unacceptable and that people must be forced to leave.
Managed retreat as originally proposed by KCDC (and abandoned after effective intervention by Coastal Ratepayers United) was indeed an absurd policy. A sensible policy for dealing with coastal hazards is long overdue; KCDC has been in preliminary discussions with CRU and others about how to do this, but the substance of such a policy has not even been hinted at. Perhaps it might include managed retreat in some sensible form; but CRU would certainly oppose any policy that would take away the rights of residents in order to avoid a hazard of 1 in 1,000 years.

KCDC and Greater Wellington need to look seriously at managed retreat for infrastructure as well as homes and businesses. For instance The Parade at Paekakariki and services associated need to be relocated. This should take precedence over nice-to-have projects such as town centre refurbishments and Kapiti Island gateway.

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