Surf breaks under the RMA
The maintenance and protection of surf breaks is relevant to several aspects of the RMA, particularly the purpose and principles of the Act (sections 5, 6, 7), the purpose of RPS’s (section 59) and the purpose of regional plans (section 63).
(1) The purpose of this Act is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.
(2) In this Act, sustainable management means managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural wellbeing and for their health and safety while:
(a) sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources (excluding minerals) to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations; and
(b) safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems; and
(c) avoiding, remedying, or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment.
Surf breaks are a “natural and physical resource” to be sustainably managed under the Act (s 5(1)). Surf breaks contribute to the “social, economic and cultural wellbeing” of people and communities by providing for the recreation activities of surfers, but also have wider benefits in terms of the economic activity of the local area and creation of a distinctive ‘sense of place’ and identity for communities close to surf breaks. International research demonstrates that surfing breaks can have significant social and economic values 4435 4436 .There are several places in New Zealand, such as Raglan, Taranaki and Gisborne where surfing is an important element of the character and culture of the local area. Surfing is an activity which draws people to live in the local area and attracts tourists and visitors. In total, the variety and scale of surf breaks around each region contribute to the character and attractiveness of the region.
Globally the numbers of people involved in surfing has increased significantly over recent decades and is expected to continue to increase. At the same time, pressures for development along the coast are growing 4437 .Ensuring appropriate management of any potential conflict between such uses of limited coastal space is part of the council’s meeting the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations and of avoiding, remedying or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment.
In achieving the purpose of this Act, all persons exercising functions and powers under it, in relation to managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources, shall recognise and provide for the following matters of national importance:
(a) the preservation of the natural character of the coastal environment (including the coastal marine area), wetlands, and lakes and rivers and their margins, and the protection of them from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development:
(b) the protection of outstanding natural features and landscapes from inappropriate subdivision, use, and development:
(d) the maintenance and enhancement of public access to and along the coastal marine area, lakes, and rivers.
The matters of national importance in section 6 (a), (b) and (d) are relevant to the consideration of surf breaks, as they are natural features and their use depends on public access to the coastal marine area. Surf breaks are an element of natural character in that they rely on the natural formation of swell corridors and seabed morphology to create a surfable wave.
The nature of the surfing experience is also affected by the character of the surrounding area. In some places, the lack of built elements adds a remote, wilderness value to the surfing experience. At breaks in more developed areas, the natural elements of cliffs and vegetation along the coast can contribute to the surfing experience. In some places, surf breaks also form part of an outstanding natural feature or part of a high natural character area or outstanding natural landscape.
Public access to a surf break is fundamental to its use. Access can be enhanced by walkways and car parks, or can be diminished through activities such as subdivision which can block informal accessways.
In achieving the purpose of this Act, all persons exercising functions and powers under it, in relation to managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources, shall have particular regard to—
(c) the maintenance and enhancement of amenity values:
(f) maintenance and enhancement of the quality of the environment:
(g) any finite characteristics of natural and physical resources:
Surf breaks provide significant amenity values. They contribute to recreation, and also to the pleasantness of a site, for people surfing and for others who watch the surfers from the land. The maintenance of the quality of the environment is important for retaining the value of the surfing experience. Surf breaks are a finite characteristic of the environment as they only occur at specific sites and can be difficult to replicate if the natural processes creating the break are disrupted.
Section 59 Purpose of Regional Policy Statements
The purpose of a regional policy statement is to achieve the purpose of the Act by providing
an overview of the resource management issues of the region and policies and methods to
achieve integrated management of the natural and physical resources of the whole region.
Section 63 Purpose of Regional Plans
(1) The purpose of the preparation, implementation, and administration of regional plans is to assist a regional council to carry out any of its functions in order to achieve the purpose of this Act.
(2) Without limiting subsection (1), the purpose of the preparation, implementation, and administration of regional coastal plans is to assist a regional council, in conjunction with the Minister of Conservation, to achieve the purpose of this Act in relation to the coastal marine area of that region.
Lazarow, N., 2007. The value of coastal recreational resources: a case study approach to examine the value of recreational surfing to specific locales. Journal of Coastal Research, Special Issue No. 50, pages 12–20
Nelsen, C., Pendleton, L., and Vaughn, R., 2007. A socioeconomic study of surfers at Trestles Beach. Shore and Beach, 75: 4: 32–37.
Scarfe, B. E., Healy, T. R., Rennie, H. G., and Mead, S. T. (2009a). Sustainable Management of Surfing Breaks: an overview. Reef Journal, 1: 1: 44-73.
Last updated at 10:53AM on November 17, 2017