Conference Online
Shane Orchard

Shane Orchard
PhD Student, Waterways Centre, University of Canterbury and Lincoln University, New Zealand

Shane Orchard is a resource management scientist based in New Zealand. He works on coastal and waterway management with a focus on land-water boundary issues, freshwater-saline mixing zones, and climate change. Shane has been studying surf break management since 2004 in connection with developing coastal policy and practical tools for implementation. He is currently working as an independent consultant in water resource management and completing a part-time PhD on coastal resilience to climate change. Aside from surfing, Shane’s other interests include kayaking, mountaineering, and backcountry snowboarding. He is also a developer of the citizen platform NatureWatch NZ.

Presentation Title: A Comparison of New Zealand and Australian Surf Break Protection Systems: Bottom-Up Meets Top-Down Towards Something in the Middle?
Presentation Day: Tuesday 14th March
Presentation Time: 10.35 - 10.55am

Surf breaks are unique and valuable components of the coastal environment. Although these values are becoming increasingly recognised around the world, initiatives in Australia and New Zealand have led the development of protection mechanisms to address them. A major advance in New Zealand was the identification of surf breaks of ‘national significance’ in national coastal policy, along with other provisions for surf breaks. These include a definition for surf break that supports spatial recognition and triggers a range of obligations for resource management authorities responsible for implementation (Peryman & Orchard, 2013). These developments occurred in the context of input from surfers to the review of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement. In the process it became apparently that there was no authoritative source on the values of New Zealand surf breaks nor had criteria been developed to determine aspects important for concept of national significance. A solution to the needs of ‘top-down’ policy was found in the form of information in a guidebook (Morse & Brunskill, 2004). Specifically, the ‘stoke ratings’ assigned to each break by the authors became accepted as a legitimate proxy for other more systematic considerations that might have be applied. This was supported by encouragement from submitters whose focus was on the need for some practical method of identifying qualifying breaks within the relatively compressed timeline for decision making. Breaks receiving stoke ratings of 10 were accepted with the one exception being Papatowai, based on evidence of its status as New Zealand’s premier big wave location. There was no reassessment of any surf break’s rating prior to their acceptance, and in a peculiar twist, one break with a stoke rating of 10 was omitted from the list, being the Spit at White Rock. The equivalent designation in Australia’s National Surfing Reserves programme (NSR) is a national surfing reserve, and the question of potential candidates was also canvassed with the preparation of an initial list (Farmer & Short, 2007). The process of assessing candidate sites has also been strongly ‘bottom-up’ with the most fundamental aspect being a community-driven application process that is required prior to formal assessment. An additional aspect is the substantial information base required to address a comprehensive set of assessment criteria (Short & Farmer, 2012). This differs markedly from the New Zealand example. More recently, both countries have seen increasing attention to surf breaks at the regional level. In New Zealand this now includes several examples of systematic approaches to protection in statutory policies and plans (Orchard, 2017). Recent research has shown considerable differences in these approaches. These are described with examples of the approaches used. A discussion then follows relating these developments to the Australian concept of Regional Surfing Reserves. Implications from the New Zealand experience highlight the importance of assessment criteria design, and the assessment frameworks they are used in. In addition, the information base to which the assessment is applied is highly variable in comparison to the Australian approach that requires comprehensive information to be compiled by the community of interest. Although the contexts for a systematic region-wide assessment versus case by case consideration of individual sites are different, the principle of information sufficiency indicates that systematic assessments may improved by approaches to information somewhere between these two extremes. A comparison of the systems developed to date in both countries also shows variable views on the inclusion of management-related criteria in assessments such as the presence of threats, or level of resourcing available to address them. This is a more philosophical aspect of the status concept that is influenced by the policy context and protection mechanisms intended following designation of a site.