Coastal Panels

Coastal Panels hit the road for our Shoreline Management Plan project (October 2020)

(Pictured above: A site visit by the coastal panel for Coromandel Town Coast to Kennedy Bay) 

Members of our new Coastal Panels have now toured our district, looking at areas of current and future risk of coastal inundation, erosion and sea level rise.

The site visits followed on from the initial orientation workshop last month, where coastal panellists came together as they start working as advisors on our Shoreline Management Plan (SMP) project, which is all about helping our communities and coasts adapt to hazards.

Ultimately, this three-year project will lead to the development of SMPs for the entire length of our coastline, including our offshore islands.

“The project is all about helping our communities and coasts adapt to coastal hazards through site-specific plans," Mayor Sandra says.

“It's is an important journey we are embarking on together - one that will be made up of many small steps along the way. I look forward to the panels working with us as we come up with community-led adaptive solutions,” she says.

Our coastal visits allowed panel members to visit current coastal hazard spots in the areas they represent. This provided an opportunity to see things first-hand and begin to understand what communities value about the coast.

The site visits were led by our coastal scientist and included Council staff, our SMP project international consultants Royal HaskoningDHV, iwi, community board members and Councillors, Waikato Regional Council and NZTA.

(Below is a picture of the site visit to Whangamatā main beach by the surf club)

“The tours were a valuable way for panellists to orientate themselves with sites in their communities that are an issue,” says our Council's SMP project manager Amon Martin.

“This sets the scene well for the work ahead, where input from our  panels will help build our understanding of how flooding and erosion will impact on the social, cultural, economic and natural environment across all parts of our coastline over the next century and beyond.”

Thames ward Councillor Martin Rodley joined the panels on three tours, and says they were a useful way to see the different issues around the Coromandel.

"We saw everything from cliffs to flat beaches, surf beaches, dunes restoration work, estuaries, road dropouts, inundation, erosion and had conversations with several locals who came out to make sure we knew what the local concerns were," Mr Rodley says.

"The panels carry hugely valuable local knowledge, which we'll need to make use of for this project to really make a difference."

Victoria Spence, panel member for the south-east coast, says the site visits around Whangamata, Pauanui and Tairua were very informative.

"It was fantastic to see the level of passion and knowledge the people on the panel are bringing to the project," Victoria says. "There are members who have been watching the environment for decades and people who are specialists in their field giving up their time to come on the panel.

"All kinds of wisdom and knowledge are included, from academics to those who have grassroots awareness of their environment and a deep sense of connection and desire to protect it," she says.

Meet our panellists:

Coastal Panel - South-East Coast 

Where do you live?
I split my residence between Opoutere and Auckland.

Tell us a bit about yourself:
I am married with three children. I have a law and an English degree, and my career has seen me enjoy a range of jobs including hosting a radio show for BFM and later George FM for eight years playing old soul, funk and disco. I have also been a child chaperone on television sets and have worked in public relations. My most recent incarnation was as a high school librarian.

I’m a committee member of the Opoutere Ratepayers Association and have previously been the chairperson. 

Why did you join the Coastal Panel for the South-East Coast?
I felt it was important that Opoutere was represented on the panel as it is quite different to other coastal communities, given coastal development is low, we have no houses on the beach front, and most residents are involved with caring for the environment in some way. Opoutere is distinctly non-urban and its undisturbed areas of natural and cultural significance are precious and need protection

Many residents are drawn to Opoutere for the environment and how wild and undeveloped it is, and we are very focused on protecting that very aspect that attracts us all to be here.   Being involved in the panel is a way to make sure we are represented.

I’ve never been involved with a process like this before, so it’s very interesting.  As representatives of the community who live in these coastal environments, we see the totality of it and how one small change leads to another.

What did you take away from the recent Coastal Panel site visit to the south east coast?
It was fantastic to see the level of passion and knowledge the people on the panel are bringing to this project. Members include those who have been watching the environment for decades and people who are specialists in their field giving up their time to come on the panel.  Every kind of wisdom and knowledge is included on the panel, from qualified to people who have a grassroots awareness of the environment and a deep sense of connection and desire to protect it. A genuine sense of commitment and love for the environment comes through from all involved. It will be very interesting to see how that is translated by the council.

Where is your favourite spot on the Coromandel coast?
Opoutere of course! On top of the maunga rua wahine summit looking down over the estuary.

What are the areas of concern you want to see addressed through the SMP project?
From a ratepayer association point-of-view, we are concerned with keeping the environment as it’s meant to be with human disturbance of the dunes as low as possible to give us the best protection against sea level rise. What struck me on the site visits is that where you have human impact, there is more disturbance of coastal processes. We need to make sure human activity is kept to a minimum and is in harmony with the natural processes of the coast.


Coastal Panel - Mercury Bay 

Where do you live?
I’ve lived in Whitianga for the last 15 years.

Tell us a bit about yourself...
I’m a science and maths teacher at the Mercury Bay Area School.

I’ve trained in coastal geo-morphology (the study of how the shape of the coastline changes over time). I love getting coastal processes into my geography lessons and I’ve run a course on coastal processes for students, involving measuring Buffalo Beach and other local beaches over time on field trips.

The ocean is my passion – being in it or on it. I love fishing, sailing, diving or just walking the beach.  I also spend a lot of time on the beach with my two children.

Why did you join the coastal panel?
I wanted to be involved in this shoreline management project as I observe what’s happening around our coast and want to get my voice heard. I particularly hope to bring along the idea that we don’t have to modify our coast with man-made structures such as groynes and seawalls. I’ve travelled in Europe and the modification of the coast there is huge, with rock walls and virtually no beaches left in some places.  I see us going down the same path and it scares me.

Where is your favourite spot on the Coromandel coast?
Otama. I got married on that beach.

What do you hope to achieve as part of the coastal panel?
I want to learn the background about what has been done already regarding coastal protection across our district. My focus areas of interest are the areas currently experiencing erosion, where the community has a lot of interest, such as around the boat club on Buffalo Beach. I’m looking forward to getting to know people on the panel better.


Update July 2020 - The expressions for interest to volunteer to join Coastal Panels is now closed.

We received close to 60 expressions of interest and are currently in the process of reviewing them with the aim of achieving a fair balance of representation on each Coastal Panel.  Our recommendations will be put to Council for ratification at their next meeting, which is now not until early August 2020.

This is a new phase in what is a major coastal management project, defining the flooding and erosion risks to people and the social, cultural, economic and natural environment across all parts of our coastline over the next century and beyond.

Our Council approved for Coastal Panels to be set up to cover our coastline in the following areas (see map below):

  • Thames and Thames Coast
  • Coromandel Town Coast to Kennedy Bay
  • Whangapoua Harbour and Mercury Bay
  • South-East Coast

Panels will be advisory boards, made up of Community Board representatives, citizens, iwi, local businesses and asset owners, and it's intended they provide a fair and balanced representation of the relevant viewpoints about our coastal environment.

Panels will work together to identify the risks on their local coasts and propose policies and actions to address these as they work through the development of the SMP for their area.

The panels will have access to the relevant expertise required along the way and will be guided by a sequence of steps and key questions  set out by the Ministry for the Environment.

These include:

  • What is happening on the coast?
  • What matters most?
  • What can we do about it and how can we get it done?
  • Is it working?

At the end of the process, panels will make recommendations to our Council on how its community can prepare for and adapt to coastal change.

“Coastal Panels will be the engine for our Shoreline Management Plan project, which is all about building resilient coastal communities,” says our Mayor Sandra Goudie.

“This is a critical new step in the project, and I look forward to our communities getting involved and working together to come up with community-led, coastal adaption solutions,” she says.

Who are we looking for to join our Coastal Panels?

Each Coastal Panel will have a membership made up of:

  • Mana whenua representatives (up to four)
  • Community Board representatives (two members)
  • Community organisations (two members)
  • Citizens (up to six members)
  • Businesses (two members)

Councillors from our Council and Waikato Regional Council will be invited to be observers on the panels.

It’s intended that the panels will be balanced and representative of diverse views and of the community within the relevant SMP area.