Check before carrying out coastal works; NRC

27 May 2024, 9:10 AM

A recent Environment Court case where a man was ordered to remove extensive work carried out along the coast in Northland has highlighted the need to follow the rules in the Coastal Marine Area.

In its decision, the Environment Court ordered the removal of a network of unauthorised gabion baskets, a 52-metre long concrete-base plinth and a boat ramp all illegally installed by a homeowner at Langs Beach. The man was also ordered to restore an access way over an esplanade reserve.

Commenting on the case, Clark Ehlers, Compliance Monitoring Manager for the Northland Regional Council, says there are strict rules that regulate the occupation or placement of a structure, including a hard protection structure, in or on the foreshore and seabed in Northland.

Mr Ehlers says those illegally carrying out works face potential prosecution and fines of up to $600,000 for a company, or $300,000 for an individual – and even imprisonment in extreme cases – as well as being ordered to reinstate an area.

He says a structure is a building, or a piece of equipment, device, pipeline or other facility that is fixed to land.

“It can also include a structure, which is fixed to another structure, which is fixed to land. Structures can include bridges, jetties, boat ramps, pipelines, wharves, hard protection structures and spillways.”

After Cyclone Gabrielle, the regional council had received more reports from members of the public that unauthorised seawalls had been built.

A seawall is a hard protection structure as it has the primary purpose of protecting an activity from a coastal hazard, including erosion. It is important to note that building a seawall or any other hard protection structure needs a resource consent, if its purpose is to protect a property from coastal hazards.

Mr Ehlers says Northland has a long, beautiful and, in some areas, remote coastline which attracts large numbers of visitors each year, as well as residents who make Northland their permanent home or temporary home.

“More baches or permanent homes, with associated structures which may occupy space in the common marine and coastal area, are being built at a time of climate change and increased weather events.”

Mr Ehlers says the basis of regulation of coastal structures is to ensure that our coastline does not become impacted by too many structures that are not well designed, placed or maintained to preserve public open space and visual amenity value of our coastline.

“Council monitors structures to ensure they are maintained in good order and repair. Where they are built without authorisation, there is no control on the impact they could have on the amenity value of a beach.”

He says all structures that existed on 30 June 2004, or were previously authorised by resource consent, are permitted, provided they are of a specific type of structure, which includes outlet pipes, bridges, jetties up to 10 m2, hard protection structures within enclosed waters, boat ramps and slipways that are less than 15 metres in length and less than four metres in width.

“The occupation of space by a structure in a marina zone, coastal commercial zone and any occupation of the common marine and coastal area requires a resource consent.”

That is based on the restrictions that are placed on the use of the Coastal Marine Area in Section 12 of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA), or Section 9 of the RMA for a placement of hard protection structure outside the Coastal Marine Area, for the purpose of coastal hazard protection.

Council recommends emailing it at [email protected] if you are unsure whether the work you plan to undertake requires a resource consent.

Gabion baskets along foreshore.

Some of the unauthorised works at the centre of the recent Environment Court case. The court ordered the removal of the gabion baskets, pictured, along with a 52-metre long concrete-base plinth and a boat ramp all illegally installed by a homeowner at Langs Beach. The man was also ordered to restore an access way over an esplanade reserve.