It may become easier for councils to force victims of climate change off their land if a precedent-setting decision in the Bay of Plenty is passed later this year.
In what’s understood to be a New Zealand first, 16 homeowners in Matata, a small coastal community between Tauranga and Whakatane, may have their land use rights removed from them via a plan change under the Resource Management Act.
But the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has voted to restrict notification of the plan change to directly affected parties – around 400 people – despite knowing the outcome will set a precedent for the entire country.
“I think there is just such an enormous principle here,” Bill Clark, the only Bay of Plenty Regional Councillor to vote for the proposed plan change to be nationally notified, told Checkpoint.
“My view is more expansive. I do believe that folks in Invercargill should know what's going on here and have a right to participate in the conversation,” he said.
All nine of his fellow Regional Direction and Delivery Committee members disagreed.
“It’s largely a local issue,” Norm Bruning said.
“Would it have been helpful for the rest of the country, politics and everyone, to be involved? I don't think it would help these people.”
The homeowners affected want the proposed plan change to be nationally notified, even though that will drag out the already 13-year-long debacle.
The issue stems from a May 2005 torrential downpour which washed boulders, logs and other debris down a flooded stream, damaging more than a dozen homes.
The council said in 2006 it would mitigate the risk of a future event and allowed residents to rebuild, but it then changed its mind in 2012 and said residents had to leave as the risk of another event was too great.