‘Cliff failure’ seawall proposal raises concern: Civic leaders on North Shore building project

Civic leaders say they have questions about a seawall construction project proposed by the owners of $11 million North Shore residential properties.

Trish Deans, a member of the Devonport Takapuna Local Board, said she had concerns about the scheme, reported on in the Weekend Herald on Saturday.

Chris Darby, one of two Shore councillors, also raised questions about the non-complying discretionary application to build the 3m by 38m seawall beneath cliffs at Belmont cliffs and the beach.

Allen and Barbara Peters want the structure beneath their homes at 66-68 Seacliffe Ave and their application is notified because it doesn’t comply and needs discretion to get consent.

People have till February 9 to submit.

Deans said she was asking questions about the scheme and had asked it be put on the agenda for a local board workshop next Tuesday.

“I will be seeking input from the local board members for the board’s submission and get their agreement that I write that submission,” she said.

“The main issue lies with the mean high water spring as it is a moveable boundary due to erosion. The applicant is claiming that the data points they have produced are accurate, and this isn’t necessarily the case. This is a case of lost land due to erosion. There needs to be a new survey to establish the boundary,” Deans said.

The Crown owned the seabed and there were implications for Māori seabed rights, she said.

“The question of whether this a reclamation needs to be explored,” she added.

The outcome of the consent application could also set a precedent, she said.

In contrast, the applicants claim the structure won’t be built on public land and reject any implication that this is a reclamation, she noted.

“I will be questioning the seawall structure, but given the incessant erosion action of the sea, wind and sand I am waiting for council planners to give advice on the structure. There are implications for the wave action that will occur on the rest of the cliff face that but that information won’t come until after February 9,” Deans said.

Darby said the fallen concrete and steel from a failed 1970s stabilisation attempt had laid on the beach since then yet that beach was on the Te AraroaNew Zealand Trail so the pile was visible to the thousands of people who passed it.

“The structure is proposed to be built in the coastal marine area. I am sure there are many benefits but it’s quite an imposing structure that will stand out,” he said.

“It opens up the discussion about coastal inundation. We are going to see stronger winds and more erosion so how do we approach this? Do we try to build our way out of it or recognise the natural processes need to be accepted?”

His own Shore residence had 5m cliffs and he took great care with vegetation, protection and stormwater runoff. Vegetation helped stabilise fragile cliffs, he said.

Neighbour Mary Glanfield wrote on social media that she lives near the application sites and backed the application.

“The current owners of 66 and also 68 Seacliffe [Ave] have been approached numerous times over the years, by members of the public, querying why they don’t clean up the eyesore at the bottom of their cliff. This project is at no cost to the ratepayer. The landowner should be applauded,” Glanfield said.

“This proposal is not about saving houses at the top of the cliff. These houses are already secure via the existing palisade wall. This is a tidy-up solution of an existing eyesore,” she said.

Craig Davis of Davis Coastal Consultants which wrote the assessment of the environmental effects for the Peters said the application was not particularly unusual. Nearly all seawall consents were non-complying or discretionary. That was appropriate because they were proposals that need careful planning consideration and assessment.

He acknowledged the application had generated some interest locally and said it was therefore appropriate that Deans took an interest.

“There is clearly some information she will need from specialists to help her form her opinion and, as she says, she is asking for this information from within the council team,” Davis said.

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