Council “sideswipes” planned seawall design

Kāpiti Coast District Council has done an about-turn on the proposed design and build of the critical Paekākāriki seawall, believes resident and design group member Bride Coe.

Remedial work on the current seawall, 2021. Image: Mark Coote

It’s a decade or more since the Paekākāriki Seawall Design Group formed with the aim of keeping Kāpiti Coast District Council (KCDC) from placing rocks along the rest of the beach after the building of the rock revetment at the south end of The Parade.

 The aim of the group was to ensure full consultation between KCDC and the community: to involve the community in creating a design for a new seawall that was a good fit with the township’s needs and aspirations. And to retain a dry, rock-free, accessible beach seaward of any wall structure.

The community had a clear vision of a beach with no rocks on it. A beach that retained its amenity value; dry at low tide, on the same footprint, and with greatly improved accessibility. This included disabled access with ramps, a lower wall relative to the beach, and an upper ‘beach’ recreation area with some seating. This area would also serve to diffuse overtopping wave action and, along with the lower front wall would reduce scour. Behind this and seaward of the road, a rock wall with planting, above which would be a shared pathway adjacent to the road.

After taking into consideration the tough environment this wall is to withstand, this design came to fruition as a predominantly concrete wall, approved by the community. It was permitted and consented with a cost of around $16 million and tenders were to be let in March of this year, 2021. 

The preliminary design of the original consented seawall, July 2019.

Years of work went into this: from the volunteer Design Group, the Community Board, the wider Paekakariki Community, KCDC, numerous Consultants engaged by KCDC, and so on.         

The process was seen as an exemplar project within Resource Management Act guidelines. It was recognised as such because it involved outstanding consultation between all parties for the greater good, especially the engagement of the other parties with the community. BECA consulting firm won an award for their part in the project. KCDC also received accolades for the process of engagement with the community.    

Paekākāriki had been promised this seawall of choice — one arrived at after extensive consultation with the build set to begin in 2022 and to take two years to complete.

At a meeting prior to the last Community Board meeting on 23 February, KCDC’s Sean Mallon informed the Community Board, and the Design Group, that due to a budget blowout — the design is now estimated to cost $27m — a like-for-like timber wall (i.e. like the one there now) was now proposed under the new Long Term Plan (2021-31). This design, at an estimated cost of $17 million, would be instead of the already consented, and community-approved plan, and would be built over five years, rather than the two year build of the consented design.

There were no drawings available from KCDC of their newly proposed design to show us, nor could they answer any questions on detail around any of the changes. 

All they could tell us was that this proposed seawall will stand higher above the beach surface, there will be no upper ‘beach’/recreation and seating area, and the access points will be altered (although again Council staff could give us no detail of how). Presumably, they will be downgraded. 

The ‘shared pathway’ of the earlier design has become merely ‘improvements for walking and biking’. Again, no detail and no plans.

Paekākāriki has been let down badly by KCDC over this project, and hundreds of thousands of dollars of ratepayer’s money has been spent on design and engineering consultants, and meantime on the ongoing repairs to the existing wall. 

The Community Board and the Design Group intend to keep a dialogue going with KCDC. They will endeavour to ensure that the core design elements of the consented seawall, as agreed with the community, are retained. They will work towards further consultation with the community and KCDC.

The Council made a commitment to replace the old seawall with the design which had been developed through extensive consultation with all parties. This design had been adopted by the community and is also fully consented.

That commitment has been dishonoured by KCDC.

The paired back version of the seawall project, without any apparent plans or detail, has been submitted into the Long Term Plan. It appears that the community’s consented plan, developed over many years of consultation, has been thrown out.

You can view the 2017 KCDC community update document, which includes detailed pictures here.

Bride Coe is a member of the Paekākāriki Seawall Design Group. The views expressed are her own. You can have your say on this matter when the KCDC Long Term Plan consultation period is opened, 7 April to 10 May, 2021.