Am I Alone in Thinking This is Dumb??

A large new house is being built barely 10 metres from the top of an eroding sand cliff north of the Omaha boat ramp and jetty.  Sure there are several older houses nearby which have been there for 20 years or more, but this is a recently permitted new house.

Dumb 1

Surely with what we now know about accelerating sea level rise, increasing storm surges, and erosion of sandy shores, building permits should not be given out for this sort of situation?  At least there should be a caveat on the building permit indicating that ratepayers money will not be spent on trying to prevent such buildings falling into the sea.  Looks to me like an avoidable future public expense.

The last clifftop section at middle left is now being built on.  This aerial taken in July 2013.

The last clifftop section at middle left is now being built on. This aerial taken in July 2013.

I think the tipping point between such coastal properties being valuable and “desirable”, and them becoming a clear liability, will be quite sudden. Then a lot of people will lose lots of money. I guess the speculators dilemma (and genuine owners of such homes) is judging just when to get out.

This situation reminds me of what happened at Ohope in the Bay of Plenty back about the 1970’s, where houses on top of a similar sand cliff toppled into the sea. Will we ever learn?


  1. Dont panic Roger ,when the cliff is 5 m away the council will ask all the rational rate payers to stump up a few Sheclels to save the dill.LEN

  2. Gae Spencer says:

    Regarding this email The short answer is yes We are the immediate neighbour to the new dwelling. None of the houses in this area are 20 years old. The owner of the house has owned his section longer than any of the people living on that northern spit and surely has the right to build his retirement home as long as he meets council requirements.

    Several years ago the council approved a Dune Protection Zone to prevent people and dogs from eroding the cliffs. Still, people (including yourself) climb over the barrier with dune protection signs in place and walk down the bank. You have also personally made a walkway from stairs by the Pohutukawa tree along to the bird fence without council permission and knowing full well that the dune is protected. I would have to say to my mind this is dumb

    The bank along the estuary, especially in front of our house is certainly eroding. We fully endorse the councils efforts to protect the dunes . We and other residents have been involved in planting programmes to retain the bank which must preclude people and dogs walking down them

    Gae and Rod Spencer


    • Roger Grace says:

      Thank you Gae Spencer for you comments. Of course the owner of the new house on top of the sand cliff has the right to build his retirement home provided it meets council requirements. But that does not make the fact of building so close to the top of an eroding sand cliff any more “wise”.

      It is unfortunate that the council of the time approved subdivision so close to the unstable sand cliff, locking in a future problem that council, that is the ratepayers, may be expected to fix at great expense. It is likely that in the house owner’s life time his house will not drop into the sea, but in the longer term there is a serious risk.

      I appreciate the need to prevent people and dogs from clambering down the cliffs and eroding them as the steep sand slope is unstable and only tenuously held in place by struggling and inadequate vegetation. Rising seas will continue to nibble away at the bottom of the cliff, regardless of vegetation further up the slope.

      You say I have walked down the bank ignoring the dune protection signs. This is completely untrue. I have never walked down the bank as I understand its instability and would not put it further at risk.

      Regarding the walkway north of the pohutukawa tree by the stairs, Auckland Council mowed that track as far as the access path from the subdivision, and has cut out a section of the railing by the carpark to facilitate access along that track. That track is on stable flat grassed land and does not pose an erosion risk. Council also cut out the large Sydney wattle which was obstructing access further north.

      I continued a narrow track further north, carefully keeping away from the steep slope and remaining only in secure vegetation to prevent risk of erosion. The reason for this part of the track was to access two predator traps in that area as we could no longer access them across the subdivision because Dryden’s were building their new house. This track is on public land and provided foot traffic does not increase erosion it is a legitimate access.

      I would urge you and other residents to be more diligent in your planting programmes on the steep slope in front of your houses, though with sea level clearly rising it may take more than vegetation to prevent serious erosion in the longer term.

      I suggest you read other posts on this site to understand more about the problems of sea level rise and impacts on the coast. Particularly see Christine Rose’s story “Castles in the sand”, and my story “Orewa madness! Trying to defy sea level rise,” and references therein.

      On the Point Wells side of the harbour there is an even more recent crazy situation outlined in FarmShoppe’s stories “Planning for rising sea levels – Not!”, and “Development at Point Wells.”

      The issue of rising sea levels, coastal erosion and inundation, and council responsibilities needs to be taken far more seriously. The impacts of sea level rise can no longer be ignored.

      Roger Grace

      • Thank you Roger. You have covered it well. The issue is not the length of time of ownership. It is the Council continuing to allow building in hazard zones which will inevitably be a cost on ratepayers in the future.
        The sandcliff area is a public Esplanade Reserve and has no legal protection outside this provision. In the Rodney Plan and the Unitary Plan it is recorded as an Esplanade Reserve on which the RMA requires public access. The residents along the cliff chose for the most part to ignore an agreement made with RDC almost 15 years ago that they would properly protect the area. With one or two exceptions this has not occurred.

    • Recently there has been garden waste dumped in the area of erosion Most residents have made no attempt to conserve the area over the past 5 years Mown grass cannot be regarded as “dunes” this is a public area , a riparian strip up to 10 metres wide and the public have a right to use this as a walkway as they do any part of the riparian strip around the Whangateau harbour

  3. Correction Jo means esplanade strip not riparian

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