Erosion threatens Nelson campsite

03:47, Jan 09 2014
Erosion on Tahunanui's Back Beach
LAND AND SEA: Erosion on Tahunanui's Back Beach exposes the giant weathered roots of trees along the coastline.

Tahuna Beach Holiday Park won't exist if the Nelson City Council does not help fund erosion protection, says the camp's manager, Ann Cumpstone.

Tahunanui Beach, regarded as a Nelson icon, has taken a battering with fresh erosion from summer storms.

The Back Beach is now further exposed but the council is taking a hands-off approach.

Ann Cumpstone
FRUSTRATED: Tahuna Beach Holiday Park manager Ann Cumpstone on the camp’s rock wall that helps prevent erosion.

The popular holiday park is on council-owned land which is leased by the Tahuna Beach Camp Inc.

It has nearly 1000 sites, and is described as the largest campsite in the southern hemisphere.

Cumpstone said: "We have spent $250,000 of our money protecting this land for the people of Nelson, probably against the council's wishes - we know they have a ‘managed retreat' approach. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place."


Council communications manager Angela Ricker said unless there was a change to the council's managed-retreat policy it had no budget or long-term strategy regarding the holiday park land.

It was the Tahuna Holiday Park's choice to construct the wall, which with the council's approval they were entitled to do under the lease terms, she said.

Cumpstone said the holiday park lost 28 sites 15 years ago. "They fell into the sea. That was a pretty big loss of income. If we waited around and tried to negotiate we were going to lose another 14 if we didn't act. We spent around $150,000 two years ago. It's just ongoing and we have to patch it up."

The damage wasn't just from storms. Big, heavy, old tree stumps, dumped on the beach at the back of the golf club, floated off and smashed into the camp's protective rock wall, she said.

"It's ongoing and I firmly believe we are one day going to be the front beach. It would be nice to get some kind of help or that people knew we do this at our cost.

"Ideally, I would like the council to help us with funding the rock walls to continue to protect this land or there will not be a holiday park. There will not be Parkers Rd. Is that what they want to happen?"

The sea was coming through at the western end and through to the BMX area.

"It used to go out and around, now it goes right in. We cannot afford to spend any more, we cannot protect ourselves any more. It would help even if there was recognition for what we have done. I was told that was our choice, it was up to us if we wanted to make bad decisions. It's a bit gutting."

The camp has an income of $2.3 million and had a $31,000 surplus last year.

Ian Barker, who is the council representative on the Tahuna Beach Camp Inc, said the whole coastal dynamic was always changing.

He believed the managed-retreat policy was OK as long as it was carefully monitored. "If there is a dramatic change, including an increase in erosion, then it needs to be immediately reviewed," he said.

Nelson deputy mayor Paul Matheson, who lives in Tahunanui, said it would be spending good money after bad trying to mitigate the Back Beach erosion with rock walls and it would be "an engineer's nightmare". Most people now accepted that, he said.

Ricker said studies by its consultants had shown that on average the Back Beach was being eroded 3.8 metres a year. The council was taking a managed retreat approach, as recommended by consultants. This involved removing any trees or car parks as the tide encroached.

There could be long-term options to halt the erosion, but these were yet to be explored fully.

A Coastcare programme was started at the beach in 2001 to save Tahunanui beach. Sand barriers were built on the front beach to help reduce erosion at the base of the dunes, and native plants used to stabilise them. Matheson said that had worked but the Back Beach area "had a mind of its own" and was too exposed to control.

One of the problems was the front entrance to the motor camp was lower than the Back Beach.

If the sea ever pushed its way through, water might go through to the area by the skating rink, he said. The encroachment of the sea has killed many mature pine trees adjoining the Back Beach beside the Blind Channel, the stumps of which clearly chart its progress, and severely restricts the dog walking area at high tide.

Last week high tides coupled with heavy rain further scoured the land bordering the Back Beach. The tide went right over the boundary in places dumping driftwood on land after the tide retreated.