Hawke’s Bay ratepayers set to pay into climate fund

Hawke’s Bay is on track to become the first region to charge ratepayers for mitigating the effects of climate change, but it won’t cover damage to private properties.

The Clifton to Tangoio Coastal Hazards Strategy Joint Committee has unanimously agreed that a $30 annual rate should be paid into a Coastal Contributory Fund, which would raise $1.65 million a year.

The three local councils whose representatives make up the joint committee – Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Napier City Council and Hasting’s District Council – will now need to decide if they will implement the recommendation.

For many residents in the region, the effects of sea level rise are quite literally already at their front door step.

Carol Blummont lives on Clifton Road in Haumoana, an area that is set to be inundated by the sea within the next 30-50 years.

Her property is not affected at the moment – because it’s across the road from the sea – but the beachfront homes are already taking a battering.

“There’s a house over the road [that] Johnny Bridgeman built and he put a sea wall around it – well that’s actually getting eroded now and the front porch that he did with concrete, that’s all falling in and then there’s another house a little down further that everything’s washed underneath it as well,” Ms Blummont said.

She thinks the proposed coastal erosion rate is reasonable, as long as it’s used to build a seawall and groynes.

Committee chairperson Peter Beaven is proud that Hawke’s Bay councils are leading the charge.

“No-one in New Zealand has tried to create a contributory fund looking forward to the inter-generational issues that we will face as a consequence of sea level rise – so it’s a big step.”

The funds will be used to implement the joint committee’s 100-year plan, which estimates climate costs at $400m.

To cover that cost, the $30-a-year-annual rate was likely.

“The amount that we’re proposing to collect currently is a drop in the bucket compared with what will be needed in the future and that will come as no surprise to anybody when you consider the consequences of sea level rise of a 1m to a 1.5m which is what we’re currently looking at.”

The fund won’t cover the cost of damage to or the moving of private properties, and can only be used to cover the cost of what is deemed to be in the public good.

Hasting’s District council deputy mayor Tania Kerr said there had been a lot of debate about what the “public good” should include.

“If we understand and can tell the story that everybody wants to be able to access the beach at some point, that this is about protecting public access, it’s about protecting council facilities such as roads, it’s about protecting community facilities such as rural bridges, that sometimes we all need to contribute a little bit for the greater public good.”

“When it comes to asking individuals to pay for protection of their own assets, that’s different. This is not about protecting private assets, this is about protecting public assets.”

The fund will ensure that the cost of climate change won’t burden future generations, Ms Kerr said.