Guru’s Allegations Challenged

coastal hazardsKapiti Coast Hazards Report Defended

By Alan Tristram

An American member of Kapiti’s  Independent Coastal Hazards panel has rejected suggestions by Cr K Gurunathan that the panel’s integrity could be compromised (see story above).                                                                                             

Dr. Paul D.  Komar, Emeritus Professor of Oceanography at Oregon State University, say the panel is united — and he rejects any suggestion of bia.

He says: “I understand that concerns have been raised about the independence of the members of our panel, or that pressures might have been placed on us regarding our decisions.  This definitely has not been the case.”

(Cr Gurunathan says the chair of the independent panel, James Carley, had co-authored a research paper with Dr Shand the expert used by KCDC to establish the coastal hazard lines.)

Professor Komar says: “Jim Carley added text concerning the management strategies, but a primary task for him was to keep us on schedule, to compile our respective contributions, and to format the final report.

‘Worked well together’

“We have worked well together as a panel, contributing our respective perspectives, with James Carley having an engineering background, Paul Kench being a coastal geologist, and my expertise being in coastal oceanography.

Professor Komar says Robert Davies was a good addition to the committee, in that many of the analysis methodologies depended on statistical applications. 

He adds: “This diversity in panel membership turned out to be important in that the methodologies applied to evaluate the Kapiti Coast erosion hazards ranged from the engineering/oceanography approaches followed in the 2003 report by John Lumsden, to the recent reports by Roger Shand in which the analyses have a more geological basis. 

“As such, both directions followed in their respective analyses have contributed to a better understanding of the hazards faced on the Kapiti Coast by rising sea levels and increased storm intensities, caused by global warming.”

Four members in  agreement

He adds: “At the end of our December meeting in Kapiti, when as a committee we had our first opportunity to discuss the issues, it quickly became apparent that the four of us were in full agreement, there having been no need to change anyone’s opinion.

“The balance of our time was therefore spent in outlining the contents of our report, and who would volunteer to write drafts of the sections. 

“Jim Carley and Paul Kench were heavily committed with other projects, whereas being semi-retired I was freer to work on a first draft, aided by my immediate familiarity with the material, having just completed analyses of the Hawke’s Bay coastal hazards.” 

The professor says he lacked familiarity with issues concerning tidal inlets and their special hazards, so Paul Kench completed the sections covering that in the Kapiti review, and Bob Davies wrote the discussion of the statistical analyses. 

“I believe that as a committee, we are in full agreement as to our recommendations, just as we were at the end of the December meeting in Kapiti,” he says. 

“Again, there never was any pressure placed on us as to our opinions, from others in the committee or from the outside.  I hope our report and its recommendations serve to guide the District Council and the Kapiti homeowners in working together toward managing this coast, recognizing it is expected to face future enhanced hazards as a result of Earth’s changing climate.”


The issue is not just whether there was or wasn’t bias but rather whether is a perception of potential bias which might undermine the public perception of independence of the panel let alone open Council to further legal challenges.

A further issue is that the staff appear to know of the previous relationships of at least two members of the panel but failed to advise Councillors of this. Clearly this was a risk that the Executive should have brought to the Councillors attention.

Clearly this is just another example of the incompetence of the executive of KCDC.

As many of us keep asking of the Mayor, what happened to openness and transparency or was this merely a slogan to be used during an election?

Councillor Gurunathan is not alleging bias. All he is requiring is a legal opinion from KCDC stating there is no conflict of interest of the independent panel as there is a possibility it could involve community legal challenges at considerable costs to an already burdened ratepayer.

It is a valid point as KCDC replaced a reviewer of the PDP who had published a paper jointly with a staff member.

Professor Komar has missed the point entirely, no doubt assisted by the fact that Natural Justice Laws in New Zealand differs from those in the US. According to Professor Komar, James Carley’s primary role was to be a time keeper. Perhaps a good time piece mechanism would have been a better alternative.