It can’t hold back the tide, and Covid-19 won’t stop community plans for a bright future on the Wharekawa Coast either.
Sea levels a concern for low-lying coast
Hauraki District Mayor Toby Adams is co-chair of the Joint Working Party governing Wharekawa Coast 2120, a major project to address the effects of climate change in the area. He says issues such as sea level rise are a real concern on the low-lying coast, which includes the communities of Kaiaua, Whakatiwai, Waharau and Pūkororo-Miranda.
“This is really important work and we’ve made some great progress, so we want to keep the momentum flowing to the best of our ability during this time,” he said.
Community Advisory Panel engine room of the project
Work on the project, which involves Hauraki District, Waikato Regional and Waikato District Councils working alongside Iwi, technical experts and the community, began at the beginning of last year. A community workshop on 30 November was attended by about 40 people who shared what was important to them and what they’re most concerned about. Some people also put their names forward, or nominated someone they knew, to participate more actively through a Community Advisory Panel. Panel members were confirmed in December and will meet regularly to provide local knowledge and advice throughout the project.
The Mayor says the panel is the engine room of the project.
“Each month they'll look at a broad range of issues, ask questions, seek more information and ask for feedback from the wider community. Taking into account the responses they receive, as well as technical support and advice, they'll then make recommendations to the Joint Working Party.”
Project name change more accurately reflects area
At its first meeting in March (not long before the lockdown), the panel agreed the project name should be changed from Kaiaua Coast 2120 to Wharekawa Coast 2120.
The Mayor says this is in direct response to advice from Iwi representatives for the area,
“They’ve advised us that Wharekawa Coast better reflects the area being covered by the project. However, it’s important to note that this name change is only for the project, and doesn’t change any official place names for the area and also that there is no change to the project itself,” he said.
Advisory Panel looks for ways to keep the ball rolling
The Community Advisory Panel will meet once a month and keep the wider community in the loop as they go, via regular community workshops. It’s hoped the next community workshop planned for May will still go ahead, although it’s likely to look a bit different from the last face-to-face event.
Panel co-chair Justin Johnstone says members are putting their thinking caps on and working with the project team to look at alternative ways to keep the ball rolling.
“In the meantime we’re happy for people to contact us if they have any questions or just want to chat about the project. Our phone numbers are all available on the project website,” he said.
“Climate change and sea level rise pose significant challenges for our coastline and communities. We need to make informed choices on where our communities grow, where infrastructure is placed and how we become resilient to future threats. However, we also must keep focus of the issues we face now and take all affordable measures to address them. We need your knowledge, your thoughts and your ideas to plan for the future.”
Wharekawa 2120 project decisions long reaching
Ultimately, the decisions that are made as a result of Wharekawa 2120 will affect everything from future land use to investment in infrastructure and business development in the area. The development of productive partnerships and dialogue with Iwi is a priority, particularly in light of the upcoming settlement of the Hauraki Collective Settlement.
To stay updated on the project, read meeting minutes, or look at the research and science on local hazards in the Wharekawa Coast area go to https://wharekawacoast2120.hauraki-dc.govt.nz