Important elements

Well-informed planning

For a plan to be effective in managing coastal development it needs to be based on robust information about the nature and value of coastal resources, current and likely future pressures on them, the sensitivity of the resources to the pressures, and community aspirations. In areas where there is a recognised risk of coastal erosion and other hazard risks (such as inundation and liquefaction), an understanding of coastal processes will also be relevant. This will usually require a range of technical studies to be undertaken on issues such as natural character, landscape, biodiversity, historic heritage and coastal hazards. Tangata whenua-based technical advice may be required to adequately address issues of importance to iwi.

Effective planning is also likely to require studies of current and likely future demand for coastal development and options for meeting this demand. The development of scenarios, which illustrate the consequences of different development trajectories on the coast, can be useful in communicating information and helping to make informed decisions. Examples of where extensive technical reports have been prepared to inform coastal planning include:

  • The Bay of Plenty Smartgrowth strategy, which includes the coastal environment, was informed by a range of technical papers, including ones on growth, demand for land, economic development and hazards (see
  • The Wairarapa Coastal Strategy was informed by eight technical reports on planning context and methods, landscape, natural environment and ecology, land use and development, access and
  • recreation, built environment and infrastructure, hazards and heritage
  • The Whangarei District Council’s Sustainable Futures 30/50 Sub-regional Growth Strategy relied on a number of background reports, including those on development drivers, constraints, natural resources, hazards and risks and responses
  • Technical reports were used to prepare the Bay of Plenty Regional Coastal Environment Plan. In particular, these were used to develop some of the schedules, such as site specific information on coastal values including landscape, vegetation, bird habitat, conservation areas and culturally significant areas

Good and early community consultation helps coastal planning to be guided by a community vision of the desired outcomes for the coast as well as by the aspirations, needs and values of the community members. A community vision may be developed through the process to prepare coastal management strategies and/or Long Term Plans. Consultation can involve displays, meetings, workshops, hui, surveys and providing the opportunity to make written and verbal submissions.

Clear planning

If a regional or district plan is to be effective, it needs to clearly set out the direction it seeks for development on the coast. General statements of intent, or the restating of sections in the RMA, provide little guidance when resource consent applications are being considered and can thus result in ad hoc decision-making.

Policies and objectives can be directive if worded accordingly. They need to clearly identify what kind of development is appropriate where and what areas within the coastal environment are not suitable for development. For example, the objectives and policies in the draft Auckland Unitary Plan make it clear that additional subdivision will not be permitted in the coastal rural zone. In addition, the Whangarei District Council is proposing to prepare a “policy-driven” district plan, where the policies determine matters such as notification of activities.

Effective methods

Many regional and district plans contain detailed descriptions of the coastal environment, but are much weaker when it comes to providing certainty for its future management. Plans need to contain sufficient rules to ensure that their desired outcomes can be achieved. For example:

  • Outstanding natural landscapes and areas of outstanding natural character are unlikely to be adequately protected, unless rules are provided which control activities which impact on them, such as subdivision and coastal structures
  • Voluntary methods such as the provision of education, guidelines and rates relief are unlikely to be effective on their own, particularly when considerable financial returns can be obtained from coastal development, and will need to be supplemented by statutory tools

Methods need to be carefully designed so that they both control serious threats to the coastal environment and incentivise restoration and ongoing site management to protect important values.


Because managing the coast is a difficult enterprise, given the sensitivity of the resources and heavy development pressure, it is inevitable that plans will not necessarily get it right. In addition, development pressures on the coast can change quickly, and coastal areas in which development is rare may quickly become “gold rush” locations as prices in more desirable locations skyrocket.  Regular and high quality monitoring of the outcomes on the coast will enable the effectiveness of the current management approaches to be critically assessed and changes to be made in a timely manner.

Continuous monitoring is necessary to detect changes within the coastal environment before they become unmanageable. Reporting monitoring information to the public, on a regular basis, enables community members to become informed about what is happening to their coasts and the extent to which it conforms to their agreed vision. Following are some of the areas which can be monitored to provide an indication of how effective coastal management is:

  • Development trends – identifying the number and distribution of land use, subdivision and building consents granted in the coastal environment
  • Trends in development consolidation - by an analysis of the existing land use and development pattern together with the development trends in the coastal environment
  • Capacity of infrastructure services – by comparing the existing settlement and development pattern together with development trends and asset management plans service provision (existing and future)
  • Extent and distribution of esplanade reserves and strips, access strips, other reserves and boat ramps providing public access to the coast
  • Qualitative information on protection and enhancement of natural, historical and cultural values of the coastal environment using field surveys and consultation

Last updated at 2:12PM on February 25, 2015