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Peter Jackson: sea level rise and the threat to Shelly Bay

by Peter Jackson on Facebook
The Wellington City Council’s failure to address the issue of sea level rise and storm surge impact on The Wellington Company’s planned development in Shelly Bay can only be described as negligent.

The proposed development at Shelly Bay has been described as the largest private property development in Wellington’s history. Given what’s at stake, you would think that the WCC would take its principal responsibility, as the regulatory body who has to decide if it should grant a resource consent to this development, very, very seriously. After all, the proposed site for this development is on a large area of low lying coastal land – and we’re in the age of rising sea levels.

The last thing they’d do on behalf of ratepayers is to act like irresponsible cowboys … right?

Unfortunately this is exactly what is happening.

Our elected representatives are knowingly leading Wellingtonians into a situation that will inevitably result in inundation of private property, continual damage to public infrastructure, resulting in a massive cost to ratepayers.

Let me explain …

Sea level is described in official documents as “MSL”, which means “Mean Sea Level” (i.e. average sea level). It sometimes appears as “AMSL”, or “Above Mean Sea Level”.

In the e-mail below, Anna Hanson, WCC Consents Planner, is informing Angela Jones, Senior Planner of The Property Group (who is employed by the developer) of the WCC’s conditions required for resource consent at Shelly Bay. I’ve included the reference made to sea level rise below:

From: Anna Hanson
Date: 21/03/2016 1:37 pm (GMT+12:00)
To: Angela Jones
Subject: Shelly Bay/Motu Kairangi Development
Hi Angela
I’ve received feedback from the various Council advisors about what will be required to be provided in the applications for resource consent under HASHAA … relevant advisors have provided the following comments regarding information that they would need to see in the applications when submitted …
· Because of the risk of sea level, any development of Shelly Bay needs to take into account existing and future tidal levels – the site has been modelled and found to be effected by sea level rise (see attached plan) – development should be avoided in areas with levels below 3.0m MSL.

So council advisors have modelled Shelly Bay, and will only grant resource consent if the developer builds 3.0m above MSL – or average sea level.

Bear in mind that concern about sea level rise isn’t as simple as “one day the sea level will be 3m higher”. MSL is average sea level, not a high tide. The MSL could be less than 1m higher than today – and a storm, combined with a spring tide, will still cause inundation to the 3m level.

Let’s have a look at “the model” that Ms Hansen refers to in her e-mail …

This is the WCC’s own study, showing what Shelly Bay will look like when the sea level is 3 metres higher than today’s average (the flooding is shown in pink).

bay-shelly-flooding [1]

As you can see, 3 meters takes the sea right up to the edge of the hillside. In other words, all the current flat land at Shelly Bay will be flooded.

Virtually all the new development is to be built on the flat land at Shelly Bay – land that the WCC state will be under water with a 3m sea level rise. It has told the developer that they must build higher than the 3m above MSL level … for obvious reasons. And yet the Wellington City Council have granted resource consent to the plan. They have given resource consent to a development that they themselves know will be subject to tidal inundation in the not too distant future.

This is the first part of a Facebook post published today. Read the complete version here [2].