MANAWATŪ DISTRICT COUNCIL
Coastal environment plan review
A straightforward plan review revealed previously unknown relic dune features on the Manawatū coast - and we developed dynamic plan provisions to protect them.
The Manawatū District Council (MDC) started an ambitious rolling review of their District Plan in 2014. An interesting challenge as part of the review was to strengthen the Coastal Environment (CE) section of the plan. MDC’s coastal area is a relatively small (12km) stretch of the coast and makes up the western boundary of the Manawatū District. We came on board to help the council determine the values and processes going on in the coastal environment, and to draft policies and rules that would give effect to the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS). We coordinated input from landscape, geomorphology and ecology specialists, who identified a variety of coastal processes and forms. With this knowledge we were able to draft dynamic provisions adapt to changing coastal conditions.
An active coast
Analysing the specialist input revealed the influence that active coastal processes have on the coastal environment. It also revealed that much of the Manawatū District’s coast is undeveloped and has high or very high natural character. Future built development would likely be the most significant threat to this natural character. The NZCPS acknowledges areas where “coastal processes, influences or qualities are significant,” but we thought there might be more to it.
Dune field surprise
Active coastal processes are just one aspect of a coastal environment. We set some ecology and geomorphology experts on it to determine if anything significant lay beyond the “active line.” We hit the nail on the head!
As it turns out, the Manawatū is home to part of a relic inland dune field that stretches from Paekakariki on the Kapiti Coast up to Patea in south Taranaki. Dating back to the Holocene age, the dune field was formed 6500 years ago when shoreline was 4km inland from its current location. In the Manawatū, the dune field extends up to 11km inland and contains intra-dune field lakes that form an integral component of the dune field landscape. Much of this dune field is in a working productive environment, dotted with farm buildings, fences, dwellings and some forestry. The likely biggest threat to the natural character of the dune field is earthworks altering the dune landforms.
Keys to better natural character preservation
The findings reinforced that simply identifying active coastal processes did not fully capture elements, patterns and processes that make up the Manawatū’s coastal environment. The NZCPS requires preservation and protection of natural character, but not all areas of a coastal environment have the same natural character. Plan provisions aimed at preservation and protection therefore must adapt to those differences.
As a result of the investigations, the council identified two major areas that contribute to MDC's coastal environment and could address them in the plan: An active dune zone, where built development needs to be controlled to preserve and protect the natural character, and a relic dune area, where rural production activities can continue, but earthworks restrictions ensure that the underlying landform is preserved and protected.