Submission date: 7 May 2008
Submitted to: The Department of Conservation
There are numerous positives about this new coastal policy statement and overall NZCA supports this revision and update of the previous Coastal Policy. It gives both greater direction to local authorities and greater protection to the coastal environment.
NZCA is fully supportive of protection of vulnerable coastal areas and of their use and enjoyment by people in a sustainable and responsible way. Inherent in this Objective should be the rights of future generations to enjoy and use the coastal environment likewise. NZCA requests that the word “sustainable” be inserted to make the meaning of this Objective both clear and overt.
In the 14 years since the first coastal policy statement there has been an enormous change in the level of coastal development through rapid expansion of coastal cities and a huge boom in coastal subdivision and home construction for both holidays and permanent residence. This Objective, and the policies pertaining to it, need more strength for managing coastal subdivision and development. NZCA has grave fears that without effective “teeth” there will be substantial loss of natural character through the ribbon development of coastline. The current wording of the Objective adds nothing to the wording of the Resource Management Act in terms of sustainable management, and provides no clarity on what outcomes are sought.
While NZCA supports this Objective in principle, it is unclear how this will be done and whether it will be effective. National protocols should be in place to protect areas whose value for biodiversity and/or landscape merits such action. The statement under this Objective must be read and applied in conjunction with the other Objectives such as 1, 2 and 4. Development and protection are frequently at odds and there should be more guidance on mechanisms to balance these.
The wording of this Objective can lead to an interpretation contradictory to its intention. “Utility” implies “use” which then leads to development, whereas the context recognises the desirability of non-development. NZCA suggests re-wording this statement to read: “The value of the coastal marine area as public open space is recognised, and its cultural and amenity values as open space protected.”
Again, this Objective should be strengthened to affirm that the maintenance and enhancement of public walking access along the coastal marine area is a national priority. This would deliver on Government policies in the areas of national identity and recreation in the outdoors.
NZCA supports this Objective and the actions necessary for its application.
With the effects of climate change that are projected for coastal areas this is a necessary Objective but one that will require steadfastness in the face of determined opposition from developers and occupiers of the coastal zone. Protection and restoration of natural defences such as dune systems will be of great importance in areas threatened with sea level rise or storm surges.
As written the protection for historic heritage offered by this Objective appears scant, and there is little clarity or guidance as to the intention. It is not clear what constitutes “inappropriate” or who makes the decision as to what comes into that category.
NZCA recognises that New Zealand has international obligations which impact on the coastal environment and expects that these will be made overt in any coastal policy statement. Some sites are recognised under RAMSAR and should have guaranteed protection, for example.
Policies 2 – 4 Relating to Tangata Whenua
NZCA remains uncertain as to the practicality of these policies from the viewpoint of Tangata Whenua and also from the viewpoint of local government or other agencies addressing the policy statement. It also remains concerned that the strong statements about the “transfer of local authority functions, powers and duties…” in Policy 4 and the development of joint management agreements do not create stumbling blocks for the spirit of these Policies and Objective 4 under which they lie.
Policy 5 Precautionary approach
While NZCA is in support of this approach to management of natural areas where potential outcomes are uncertain, there may need to be legislative backing for support. Such an approach may get overwhelmed in the process already established to assess effects of development.
Policy 6 Integration
NZCA supports this provision fully for management of resources and activities in the coastal area especially where these are interwoven with land. The Draft Abel Tasman National Park Management Plan has attempted to address such co-ordinated management for activities in the coastal area that impact on activities within the park; a strong push for this type of management through the coastal policy statement would greatly assist the achievement of conservation outcomes in all such areas.
Policies 7 and 8 Conservation and protected land
NZCA favours these policies and also considers that, with the exception of protection activities, precedence should be given to statutory protection over proposals for any other activity.
Policy 9 Biosecurity
This is a premium area of interest for NZCA and its consideration and inclusion in this policy document is heartening, though NZCA questions whether the provisions have enough muscle for the management of coastal regions. For example, the movement of marine farming equipment contaminated with a marine pest such as Undaria to an area where it does not occur does not appear to be limited. Specifically in regard to the coastal area is the biosecurity risks that come with vessels moving within and from outside New Zealand waters, and these can carry a range of species that put indigenous ecosystems at risk through ballast water and on the hull. This needs to be emphasised in Policy 50 also. To include vessels in part (a) would seem to be necessary. Effective biosecurity is a major contributor to the maintenance of indigenous biodiversity. Dealing with incursions as they occur means that less time and money is used in dealing with pests later.
Coastal permits should not just monitor for biosecurity risks but should also take action to address the outcomes of monitoring.
NZCA urges the implementation of this Policy; it is needed so that integrated management can be achieved with the subsequent certainty of roles and responsibilities. Coastal plans for neighbouring areas should be congruent and take consideration of issues around their common boundaries.
Policy 11 Monitoring of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement
One of the weaknesses of the current NZCPS identified in the independent review was failures in implementation. This policy should have a more structured framework of timeframes to ensure implementation is monitored, rather than a single monitoring exercise near the end of the life of the statement.
Policy 13 Amendment of policy statement and plans
>Five years from gazettal is half the life of the statement – plans should be amended much sooner than this.
Policies 14 -16 Subdivision and development
The policies discouraging continuous urban development seem both weak and difficult to apply, and it is difficult to discourage development which has already occurred. There is potential for considerable dispute over what constitutes “continuous”.
NZCA suggests that the policies as currently written will not provide sufficient protection for coastal landscapes in the face of mushrooming development along the coastal strip as there is insufficient recognition of the context. Coastal development has unique characteristics and has to be managed in a way that is sympathetic to the environment with consideration for biodiversity and conservation values, the landscape/seascape values and the likely effects on development that occurs too close to the shore.
Some policies, such as 14c and 14e could be combined, and 14f could have the words ”along transport corridors” deleted so that it is clearer that ribbon development is to be avoided.
The phrase “change in character” in 15e needs clarification to show the type of character referred to such as intensity of development, visibility, or style.
At present reading Policy 16 can be interpreted as allowing the proliferation of marinas and this should be clarified also.
Policies 17 and 18 Crown Interest and Aquaculture
These should be qualified by adding wording similar to that in Policies 14 and 16 by inserting the words “while giving effect to this policy statement as a whole”.
Policy 19 Amenity values
Part (a) is ambiguous and could be interpreted as encouraging jet skis and 4WDs. By changing the wording to read “retain natural areas valued by the community for their amenity values” this ambiguity would be removed. Overall, there needs to be more guidance by stating that non-motorised recreation should be given priority.
Policy 21 Cumulative effects
The concept of thresholds is applauded but it is regrettable that these will only be implemented where “practicable”. NZCA questions whether the wording of the policy will give enough direction for cumulative effects to be addressed in planning documents. Cumulative effects are a major cause of deterioration to ecosystems and particularly in vulnerable areas such as coastlines need to be able to be considered as important impacts. NZCA urges more robust direction in this policy, using wording such as “Particular attention needs to be given to the potential cumulative effects of Permitted and Controlled Activities in the coastal environment.”
“Places” should be specifically referred to at the beginning of this policy, as well as processes, resources and values.
Policy 22 Precedent effects
NZCA thought that activities should be considered on their merits in the particular location, irrespective of whether the same may have been done elsewhere. If an activity would undermine a plan or policy, then it should not be approved.
NZCA therefore questions whether this Policy is necessary at all and indeed whether, as currently worded, it may have the unintended consequence of encouraging adherence to precedents in all situations, other than those covered by the second sentence.
Policy 24 Coastal occupation charging
One of the criteria for regional councils to consider for their charging regimes should be national consistency. This could be achieved by transfers of powers for coastal charging to a neighbouring regional council, where setting up an administrative system would be otherwise uneconomic.
Policies 25 and 26 Structures
NZCA considers that this is another set of policies where the language suggests that the 1994 Coastal Policy Statement was superior.
NZCA considers that “by requiring” should be deleted and replaced with to read “, including the requirement…” otherwise this is a narrow policy that only discourages unnecessary proliferation by one measure. Also delete “and practicable”.
NZCA considers that “Where practicable” should be deleted as it does not consider it appropriate that abandoned or redundant structures should be allowed to remain in the coastal marine area.
Policies 30 – 32 Biodiversity and landscapes
NZCA supports these policies and their specificity. NZCA requests guidance on the interpretation and application of natural character.
Policy 37 Restricted coastal activities
NZCA recommends that this policy should refer specifically to s 55 (2A) (b) of the Resource Management Act.
Policy 38 Maui dolphin
Given the dire status of this species, NZCA urges strong protection through this policy and recommends that section 55 (2A) (b) of the Resource Management Act be invoked. Amendments to Regional Coastal Plans should use s55 2(A) (a) as they are non-specific and could be far-ranging. Reference could be made also to the Draft Hector’s and Maui Dolphin Threat Management Plan 2007 to give added weight to both documents.
Policy 39 Walking access as a national priority
NZCA has queries with respect to the definition “significant” in relation to loss of existing access, as in part (b). There may be a loss of access simply by changing from a place that is readily accessed to one in a different place which is less practical. This would have the effect of discouraging access because it would be less likely to be used. In such a case there is a significant loss of access despite an access way still being available.
Part (c) should include “avoiding” as well as remedying or mitigating because otherwise this implies it is acceptable to constrain public access.
Policy 42 Vehicle access
NZCA welcomes and supports the direction to councils to address this major issue through the requirement for plans to specify where vehicle use is, and is not, appropriate. The use of beaches as highways is an historic artefact and no longer appropriate for modern transportation; neither is it necessary when the roading network enables easy access between communities.
However, the policy does not go far enough and it is ambiguous since its present wording could be interpreted as meaning that councils should allow vehicle access and recreation.
Part (d) implies that there are natural areas or habitats where use of vehicles is not damaging; on the contrary, virtually all coastal habitats are sensitive to vehicle damage in some way. The default policy for vehicles on beaches should be to avoid them unless there are circumstances where their use is necessary to achieve the purposes of conservation or rescue, or there is no other practical access and it is necessary to launch boats for these purposes.
Policy 43 Restrictions on access
NZCA questions how (e) would be applied, and suggests insertion of a qualifier in (i) such as “provided that privacy of adjoining landowners is not a valid reason to restrict public access to the foreshore and seabed”.
Policy 49 Stormwater discharge
NZCA suggests the inclusion of another part: (h) receiving waters include a marine protected area. These areas have equal potential to be affected by stormwater discharge and have been set aside for protection because of their particular values. It seems counter-productive for contamination of these areas to occur.
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