A late addition to a submission to the Government about managed retreat was presented at a Western Bay of Plenty District Council strategy and policy committee meeting on Thursday.
Managed retreat involves moving people and structures away from land facing a risk, such as sea-level rise.
The submission letter, which had already been sent, provided the council’s thoughts on community-led retreat and adaptation funding.
The controversy arose about a suggestion to help fund managed retreat. It proposed converting freehold properties in areas designated to become unliveable in the future into long-term leasehold properties.
The submission letter gave the example of a 99-year lease.
”The Crown would become the owner of the freehold land for a peppercorn rent and the owners would own the leasehold and continue to occupy the property,” the submission said.
Councillor Rodney Joyce labelled it a “radical idea” and questioned how it had been put into the submission without being presented to a workshop or councillors first.
Mayor James Denyer said he had raised it with councillors after a different workshop.
The majority of councillors were there and it was “favourably received”, Denyer said.
”Doing submissions like this is always a tricky one with timing.
”It’s much better, I agree, to have it in the workshop [but] sometimes that’s just not possible.”
Joyce asked why the mayor had not emailed the idea to the councillors.
Denyer responded: “We don’t debate stuff by email.”
Joyce said he understood the time pressure, but this one needed to be “properly considered” before it went into the submission.
”What’s here is basically nationalisation of people’s land without compensation. Now that’s trampling on property rights.
”Who’s going to tell the people of Waihī Beach, Maketū, Te Puna and Pukehina that we support a Government actually taking their... freehold title off them and replacing it with a leasehold?
”That’s actually quite a radical idea and it’s one that should not be tossed off lightly.”
Councillor Tracey Coxhead said she had experience in freehold versus leasehold land.
Using “compulsory acquisition” to change the land to leasehold reduced the land value to “pretty much zero”, she said.
Comparing the same freehold and leasehold property, the leasehold would have half the land value of a freehold under normal circumstances, she said.
Councillor Margaret Murray-Benge asked that any future submissions to the Government be emailed to councillors two days before the final sign-off.
This ensured everyone could have their say and finalise the submission with the “confidence of all your councillors”, she said.
Denyer said that once submissions were written, there was no facility to incorporate everyone’s comments and there would not be the time to have it go before a committee.
”That is my role as mayor, as leader of this council to make that call. These processes are not always ideal.”
He defended the idea: “Climate change is tough. You can’t win all round in this one. Managed retreat is confiscation of land, and it won’t be without full compensation.”
”This was a way of making it a more equitable outcome with long-term certainty. It’s also... just an idea, a suggestion to Government.”
Councillors Joyce, Coxhead, Murray-Benge, Andy Wichers and Allan Sole voted against it.
Mayor Denyer, councillors Murray Grainger, Don Thwaites, Richard Crawford and Grant Dally voted to accept the submission.
Being an equal vote, Denyer used his casting vote to accept it.
Deputy Mayor John Scrimgeour and councillor Anne Henry were absent.
Grainger asked what would have happened had they not accepted the submission.
Joyce said he would have written and asked that their submission be retracted.
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