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‘A babysitting exercise in keeping us calm’: Bluecliffs resident on tense meeting

The Southland App

Local Democracy Reporter

28 March 2024, 12:28 AM

‘A babysitting exercise in keeping us calm’: Bluecliffs resident on tense meetingBluecliffs is a small Southland township, 10km from Tūātapere, which has been battling serious erosion. Photo: Emergency Management Southland/Supplied

Bluecliffs residents have been given little hope for a solution to the erosion issues plaguing their properties on the back of a tense public meeting.


On Wednesday evening, key stakeholders — including representatives from local councils and emergency management — met with property owners of the Southland hamlet to share information and take questions.


Home to just under 20 homes, the area has been bearing the brunt of erosion from both the Waiau River and the ocean in recent months.



It was evacuated earlier this month so an old dumpsite containing asbestos could be removed.


Southland Mayor Rob Scott opened Wednesday’s meeting on a candid note, saying there weren’t any pre-determined solutions going forward.


“One of the key [messages] from today’s discussion is it’s a blank piece of paper on the table,” he said.



“Nothing’s been decided on by us."


Scott said although he’d been looking into different options himself, it was up to the community to explore its next steps.


“There’s a couple of things that are going to get in the way of some of the options we might want to do, one of them being money.”



An Emergency Management Southland overview sheet given to attendees on arrival provided a grim reminder of what residents were up against.


In February, an attempt at cutting into the Waiau River mouth to redirect flow and buy time proved ineffective after it closed up almost immediately.


Emergency management later admitted the job had proven a lot larger than anticipated, with the material hard to move.



Yesterday’s [Wednesday] overview sheet said a further cut into the bar was unlikely to succeed, with any potential attempt coming with the risk of only staying open for a matter of hours.


Any opening would not be successful unless it was supported by the construction of a causeway across the river channel to divert the flow through the cut, it said.


“This would require significant expenditure to achieve.”



Property owners gathered for the meeting at Tūātapere’s Waiau Town and Country Club seemed perturbed at how the situation had been handled, interjecting during presentations with comments and concerns.


Permanent resident and business owner Uli Sirch later told Local Democracy Reporting the event had panned out as she expected: “a babysitting exercise in keeping us calm”.


A question and answers page prepared for the meeting said tidal encroachment was expected to become a larger issues for coastal communities in years to come.



With the country’s longest coastline at 3400km, Southland was in a precarious spot.


“Hard decisions will have to be made and there will need to be a lot of consultation with coastal communities,” the supplement said.


Mayor Scott has previously indicated managed retreat is the only feasible long-term solution for Bluecliffs residents.



According to the emergency management sheet, options for Bluecliffs included ongoing monitoring, relocation and physical protections.


Short, medium and long-term options ranged in cost from $700,000 to $100 million.


LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air




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