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Taranaki company fined $80,500 for illegal seawall construction

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Taranaki company fined $80,500 for illegal seawall construction

Overview of the Mōkau sandspit. Photo: Waikato Regional Council

Taranaki-based contracting company, Peter Sole Transport Limited, has been convicted and fined $80,500 by the Huntly District Court for the unlawful construction of a rock seawall at Mōkau in December 2021.

The sentencing, delivered on 27 May 2024 by District Court Judge Melinda Dickey, involved two charges under the Resource Management Act following a prosecution by the Waikato Regional Council.

“The situation at Mōkau is complex,” said Waikato Regional Compliance Manager Patrick Lynch.

“In the 1950s, a residential development commenced at Te Naunau, a sandspit at the mouth of the Mōkau River. This is an area that has served local iwi as an urupā, or burial ground, for centuries. At the time of subdivision, two sections of land were vested in the Tainui Tribes to remain as urupā. This land is highly significant to iwi and is wāhi tapu.”

The sandspit has been subject to coastal erosion since its residential development began, said Lynch.

“On occasion, over the decades, there have been individual attempts by landowners to protect their properties by constructing seawalls. Some of these attempts are still evident, but most are ineffective and can actually worsen the erosion.”

Lynch stressed the importance of proper coastal engineering input and obtaining necessary permits for any seawall construction in coastal environments to ensure legality and sustainability.

“In this case, the defendant purchased a section in 2020, knowing it to be at risk of erosion. It neighbours the remaining urupā site. Despite being warned and abated from carrying out unlawful works several times at Mōkau over the last 20 years at differing locations, the defendant chose to use his own company earthmoving equipment to place large boulders at the base of his property and across the front of the urupā. This was done without any consultation or permits to do so,” Lynch said.

“This case sends a very clear message to coastal communities that embarking on individual, unlawful and poorly designed structures is not the solution to coastal erosion.”

Judge Dickey reinforced this during sentencing: “The prosecution of the defendant has provided general deterrence as it has conveyed the necessary message to the wider community that further prohibited activities at Mōkau will be prosecuted.”

Lynch stated that local residents are reviving a community group to address the erosion issues at Mōkau collectively and appropriately.

“We strongly encourage this,” he added.

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