Time to ban new builds near NZ waterways?

Time to ban new builds near NZ waterways? | Insurance Business

Time to ban new builds near NZ waterways?
The insurance industry, government and property owners are feeling the effects of cyclone activity on homes and premises in close proximity to the coast, leading to council deliberation as to whether consenting laws should be amended. Amendments to the laws could potentially result in the banning of new builds near waterways.

Recent cyclone damage has been most notable in Whanganui and Edgecumbe, where many houses have been rendered unfit for purpose and where some have even been condemned by Whakatane District Mayor Tony Bonne.

According to Dr Michael Naylor, insurance expert at Massey University, councils and the government both have the right and the duty to restrict where building can take place due to risk issues.

“Risk issues can occur near coasts or waterways as a result of climate change, increased rainfall, rising sea level and increased storm activity,” he said. “They can also result from poor soils due to sand, peat and the like, changes after a quake, and normal land compression due to human activity.

“Examples of where issues have occurred include Edgecumbe where land fell due to a quake, the Flockton basin in Christchurch, Christchurch seaside suburbs unwisely built on sandy soil, Christchurch suburbs built near cliff edges, Hamilton suburbs built on swamp land and red zone areas in Christchurch due to riverbeds rising. A suburb also slipped down a hill in Abbotsford in Dunedin in 1979, despite prior warnings, due to the type of soil layers.”

Want the latest insurance industry news first? Sign up for our completely free newsletter service now.

Naylor explained that Christchurch as a whole has lowered, making it more flood prone.

“It’s not just the Flockton Basin,” he said. “Dunedin has issues as does Kapiti, parts of the Bay of Plenty are dropping and swampy areas of Hamilton are compressing as the ground is dried out.

“A sea level rise pushes groundwater higher miles from the sea.”

Naylor said the whole of New Zealand is tilting in multiple ways, with some areas rising and some falling.

The Insurance Council of New Zealand is aware of these issues and has been working with Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) to enlighten councils about viable amendments that can be made to the consent issuing process.  

“Clearly you don’t want to consent right on the seashore where the sea level rise might affect them in years to come, or in flood plains where there might be a high likelihood of flooding in future,” said ICNZ chief executive Tim Grafton.


Related stories:
Edgecumbe claims mount
Insurers heave under spate of claims