Proposed seawall 'too little, too late'

The lone road to Cosy Nook is losing the battle against erosion but a proposed seawall to mitigate against further damage has come "too little, too late", concerned residents heard at a hearing.

Debate raged about the road at an Environment Southland hearing yesterday, but no decision was reached.

For the past three years, Cosy Nook residents Susan McLaughlin and Nigel Brown have witnessed from their Mullet Rd property the major erosion on the southern coastline.

What was once a stoney beach with a layby is now a sand beach with ugly slips along a large portion of the cliff, Mr Brown said at the hearing.

The issue centres on concern the road may fall into the sea, but the couple said they also held fears the erosion would continue further along the beach.

The Southland District Council's plans to build a 75m seawall along the base of the most at-risk segment of road was, in their view, "a myopic and short-term approach", Mr Brown said.

In November the district council applied to Environment Southland for a resource consent to construct a 75m seawall to protect the segment of Mullet Rd in need of urgent repair.

At yesterday's hearing, district council roading asset management engineer Hartley Hare said the seawall had been chosen as the most cost effective solution for the problem in the short to medium term.

Other options were investigated but found to be cost prohibitive and would not qualify for funding assistance from NZTA. Ideally, the district council would provide "rock armour" to the whole of the bay or relocate the road inland away from the coast, he said.

The district council had a limited budget and had to meet strict funding criteria in order to qualify for funding assistance from NZTA so could only afford to protect the section of Mullet Rd that was immediately under threat, he said.

If other sections of Mullet Rd came under threat the district council would investigate further protection.

This solution did little to placate Ms McLaughlin and Mr Brown, who strongly opposed the proposal on the grounds that it did not address unintended effects the seawall could have on erosion on the rest of the bay.

The submitters' main concern was the seawall would exacerbate the natural erosion already occurring in the area.

Mr Brown said the proposal put forward by the district council was not as robust as it should be and the "years of delay" in addressing the erosion issue meant their proposal was "too little, too late".

"While we welcome a proposal to address the erosion, we consider that road access should be maintained in a manner which is an environmentally sustainable and long term solution," Mr Brown said.

OCEL Consultants NZ director and senior engineer Keith Armstrong, who designed the proposed seawall, said it was "very unlikely" the new structure would exacerbate naturally occurring erosion, given its design features and location of the eroding area.

A decision on the application is expected in two to three weeks.


The Southland Times