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Storm highlights need for enduring solutions

Joint release from Thames-Coromandel District Council and Waikato Regional Council
Further erosion at Whitianga’s Buffalo and Brophy’s beaches during this week’s storm highlights the importance of work being undertaken to prevent such damage, say Thames-Coromandel District Council and Waikato Regional Council.

The two councils noted some short and medium-term works were already underway to address problems, and longer-term solutions were being sought.

The storm led to a reasonably significant amount of beach erosion, again raising concerns about future damage to Buffalo Beach Rd and adjoining areas.

The good news is that new dune planting designed to help stabilise Buffalo Beach bore up well to the storm, while rock walls installed some time ago also generally stood up well, although the walls contributed to waves washing on to the adjacent road.

“The erosion suffered during the storm shows the need for work currently underway to develop a better plan for preventing such damage in future,” said regional council coastal team leader Amy Robinson.

“The regional council has recently committed $170,000 to the Whitianga Coastal Action Steering Group project for further work on identifying long-term solutions to the problems we’ve been experiencing.

“We are working closely with Thames-Coromandel District Council and community representatives, including iwi, on these solutions.”

The next stage of work is establishing a range of potential solutions and then doing technical analysis of how effective they will be.

One of the key issues for the community to consider is what trade-offs it wants to make between retaining sand on the beaches, and protecting roading and property beside the beaches.

“For technical reasons, it can be difficult to achieve both ends and the investigatory work we’re doing will take this into account.

“We intend to come back to the community with options next year,” said Ms Robinson.

Thames-Coromandel District Council Area Manager for Mercury Bay Sam Marshall said that besides this longer-term work there had been “real action” in the past year through the Whitianga Coastal Action Steering Group, which includes the two councils.

“I understand the frustration over the time taken to progress plans given reports on the situation go back 20 years,” Mr Marshall said.

But he pointed to the following recent developments:

  • Confirmation that a backstop wall will be installed at Brophy's Beach with $80,000 set aside for design and consenting work this year and $520,000 towards stage 1 construction work which will start in 2014/2015. The design work for this is underway.
  • Approval of $300,000 to go towards extending the existing Buffalo Beach rock wall to be completed in the current financial year. Resource consents are being finalised currently to allow construction to commence.
  • An ongoing sand push-up programme has been established which will continue as a short-term but effective means of replenishing eroded areas of coastline with extra sand.
  • More than 200 metres of coast along Buffalo Beach has been replanted with native sand-binding plants. This has helped start the re-establishment of natural sand dune systems, that are an effective way of managing coastal erosion.

Also, a Whitianga Coastal Action Plan was developed and confirmed over the last year with support from the community through the Whitianga Coastal Action Steering Group.

This was a major step in moving from having various options available for addressing coastal erosion to confirming the specific approach, Mr Marshall said.

“This plan is action focused, sets out the agreed action, timing and estimated cost for each part of Whitianga's coastline.

"We acknowledge an accurate cost of the work is on-going and the necessary funding requirements will continue to be discussed with TCDC, the regional council, the action group and our communities," said Mr Marshall.

For more information go to www.tcdc.govt.nz/coastalmanagement

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