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Proposed RMA changes come too late for Kiwis facing coastal erosion

Newshub logoNewshub 1/08/2020 Leighton Heikell
a house with trees in the background: Coastal erosion is a problem facing many Kiwi homeowners but for some proposed changes to the RMA are going to come too late. © Newshub Coastal erosion is a problem facing many Kiwi homeowners but for some proposed changes to the RMA are going to come too late.

Major changes were signalled this week to New Zealand's Resource Management Act (RMA).

This was partly to make it more user friendly but also to address issues of climate change, particularly coastal inundation and erosion.

Coastal erosion is an immediate problem facing many Kiwi homeowners but for some the changes are going to come too late. It's an area that experts say has been failed for a long time.

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Every time Kalin Blanchard walks along the beach she witnesses more and more erosion. Two clifftop properties are teetering on the edge at Auckland's Browns Bay.

"I wouldn't want to be living in that house," Blanchard says.

As she and her kids walk they like to take photos. What they've documented is a gradual deterioration of the beach and people's properties to the point where it's become dangerous.

"There's gonna be a stage with this weather that it's going to come down," she says.

And Blanchard may not be too wrong according to the coastal change experts.

"As the sea level rises we will see more erosion, the issues going to get worse rather than better so now is a good time to be having the conversation," Auckland University associate professor Dr Mark Dickson says.

But that begs the question - is New Zealand geared up to deal with the changes that are coming?

"The current system isn't actually working to reduce our risks or improve our resilience," GNS climate change planner Wendy Saunders says.

A step in that direction was taken last week when a panel suggested the RMA be thrown on the scrap heap.

The review found councils are not equipped to deal with the impact of climate change. They've been called on to completely rewrite planning priorities and that could well mean houses may no longer be able to be built in some coastal areas.

For now the Auckland Council says the erosion here is natural and it'll continue.

Other than that the council refused to discuss its plans for revamping the RMA.

The RMA review panel suggested a new act that would help councils plan for strategic managed retreat, which could signal major changes for coastal communities.

"These types of changes are just what we need to make sure we are a sustainable country," Saunders says.

But will any of this talk of change help landowners right now? In Sydney residents have taken matters into their own hands by dumping rocks in breach of bylaws, to save their homes.

"We need these changes to take place or the process to start as soon as possible," Saunders says.

But any meaningful changes still years away, lawmakers will need to work faster than the speed of climate change.

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