The RMA Quality Planning Resource

There are both benefits and limitations in using the three esplanade area mechanisms to manage riparian margins.

An esplanade reserve may be a more desirable option than an esplanade strip when overall control of an area is necessary. Alternatively, an esplanade strip may be more appropriate where:

  • a river or coastal area is subject to erosion or accretion that could either strand or erode a reserve that was fixed in space, or
  • protection, access or recreational objectives are able to be achieved without the need for direct management of the area by the local authority.

Ultimately it is the management of esplanade areas that will determine how successfully they meet their purpose, and how well they fit into a wider framework of the management of water, riparian and coastal management. The following table sets out the advantages and disadvantages of the different types of esplanade areas:

Advantages of using esplanade reserves

Disadvantages of using esplanade reserves

An esplanade reserve does not need to be a standard width, provided a consent is obtained to vary the width. It could be 20 metres wide in some areas and, for example, 15 metres wide in others (subject to local authority approval).

The width of the esplanade reserve may change as the water boundary (MHWS) accretes or erodes. This means that it is possible for an esplanade reserve to disappear as the land erodes, increase in width (area) if deposition occurs, or to become isolated if the waterway changes course.

There is no dispute as to location, as it is clearly marked on a survey plan and on the ground.
Areas of high conservation, access or recreational value incorporated in an esplanade reserve are under maximum control of the territorial authority. This enables them to:

  1. take an integrated approach to riparian management
  2. include these areas in district plans
  3. encourage community interest groups to assist with management
  4. enforce relevant council bylaws in these areas
  5. consider and develop appropriate public facilities

The council is required to maintain and manage reserves. This could result in considerable financial cost being incurred as their number increases.
An esplanade reserve needs to be surveyed, which incurs costs (although these costs may have already been incurred).

Advantages of using esplanade strips

Disadvantages of using esplanade strips

Like esplanade reserves, strips do not need to be a standard width, provided an appropriate consent has been obtained.

Access can be retained where a river or stream is liable to change its course or to be erosion-prone and public access is a high priority.

Compensation, if payable, is likely to be less as a strip is just an interest in the land.

In some cases the objectives of the RMA can be achieved by retaining the land in private ownership.
Consistent width and maximum utility is maintained where the water edge is actively accreting or eroding as the strip moves with the water body margin.

Esplanade strips can be voluntarily created at any time by agreement (unlike esplanade reserves). The provision of voluntary public access can enhance the esplanade reserves network.
A strip can be appropriate to use in areas of low or moderate conservation values.

A strip can be appropriate when it is desirable or necessary to temporarily close off an area to the public, such as during lambing.

Responsibility for maintenance remains with the land owner.

As the width remains constant, the land owner can sometimes effectively lose control of large areas of land where coastal or river bank erosion occurs.

A territorial authority does not own the strip so it has less control. Esplanade strips may also have conditions attached to their management based on Form 31.
Use/access can be restricted and would require negotiation to change.

Strips are not a practical solution in areas of urban expansion - if erosion occurs, any corresponding shift in the strip could affect many properties.

The ability to impose restrictions or conditions on public access could significantly reduce a strip's usefulness for public access.

Advantages of using access strips

Disadvantages of using access strips

Similar to advantages of esplanade strips.
Access strips can be created at any time by agreement between the land owner and the territorial authority.
Access strips may be cancelled at any time by agreement between the land owner and territorial authority, which may provide greater flexibility to land owners.

Similar to disadvantages of esplanade strips.

Esplanade areas can also be used to help mitigate the risk of natural hazards. However in using esplanade areas, consideration should be given to how natural hazard risks might change as climate changes. Note that climate change is expected to exacerbate existing natural hazards, particularly in coastal areas.

See the MfE publication on Coastal Hazards and Climate Change for further information on using esplanade areas to manage natural hazards risks; and also the Natural hazards and Climate change guidance notes.