Campers at Mokau's Seaview Holiday Park scrambled to secure their possessions as violent seas gouged away the land around their caravans on Monday night.
Some estimated as much as 5 metres of land was washed away during king high tides late on Monday night and at noon yesterday.
Many braved the freezing night temperatures to move sheds, fences and fishing equipment away from the land's edge. Work to secure possessions and caravans continued at first light.
The length of coast between the Awakino and Mokau rivers has long been subject to seaborne erosion.
But Ngaire Grayson, who has had a beachside caravan at the campsite for 40 years, said yesterday's ocean assault was the worst she had seen.
"We have had two tsunami warnings since we started coming here but we were never worried enough to move our caravan. Now it's different."
The change is obvious. When Mrs Grayson and her husband, Bob, went to bed on Monday night a high sand bank blocked their view of the sea.
When they woke the bank was gone, along with numerous five metre high pohutukawa trees the couple had helped plant three decades ago.
"It's heartbreaking," said Mrs Grayson said.
The massive erosion at the campsite was the result of a combination of surging king tides and a heavy six metre south westerly swell that saw seawater surge into the unprotected sand banks at the holiday park.
Erosion also occurred along the coast at Mokau township but illegal rock walls controversially constructed there in 2008 to protect baches appeared to have markedly lessened the impact of the heavy seas yesterday.
"It's a big sea but not as big as the one that took five baches.
"But we didn't have rocks then. So if we didn't have rocks now we probably wouldn't be here," beachside resident Beverly Christiansen said.
Her husband, Ray, said the impact could have been worse but a sandbank that recently formed offshore of the township had helped reduce the power of the waves before they reached the beach.
Port Taranaki harbour master John Ireland said port activity was unaffected by yesterday's conditions as the Sugar Loaf islands protected the facility from south westerly swells.
The next high tide at Mokau is at 1.05pm today with the swell predicted to be around 3 metres.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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