Sand walls key in coast-erosion fight

MARYANNE TWENTYMAN
Last updated 05:00 05/01/2013
Buffalo Beach
MARK TAYLOR/Fairfax NZ

HOLIDAY SPOT: Planting in native vegetation has played a major part in erosion prevention at Whitianga's Buffalo Beach.

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Plans to reduce coastal erosion along one of the Coromandel Peninsula's most treasured holiday spots have been unveiled.

Thames Coromandel District Council (TCDC) outlined a draft of extensive action plans to address coastal erosion at a public open day, attended by about 50 people, in Whitianga yesterday.

TCDC project manager Nicki Williams said the action plans covered an area from Buffalo Beach through to the Whitianga Waterways Canal.

"This area has been divided into six sections with each section requiring specific consideration and having unique features and issues," she said.

Options include building a geotextile wall, groynes, sand replenishment and dune restoration work with short, medium and long-term plans and costings outlined for public consideration.

Ms Williams said there was a need for a co-ordinated approach between the Waikato Regional Council, TCDC and the community in order to resolve the complex coastal erosion issues.

"The action plan has identified where we can establish a programme of dune restoration and beach nourishment and there are a number of existing consents for dredging and depositing sand and sand push-ups that can assist with this work."

Most restoration work comes with an annual maintenance budget of between $5000 and $10,000 per annum but some larger ticket actions include building two geotextile walls, one at the northern end of Brophy's Beach and the other near the car park beyond the toilet block, estimated to cost around $600,000, and $250,000 respectively.

Various remedial work has taken place over the last 10 to 15 years. In October last year the first 70 metres of dune restoration got under way from north of the toilet block to just north of the Mercury Bay Boat Club.

More than 60 volunteers planted 5000 native species of plants in the hope of binding sand together, forming a natural dune, according to coastal scientist Dr Jim Dahm.

"These native plants are perfect for this environment," he said.

New Zealand artist Michael Smither has also supported the restoration work. He came up with the idea of making sand skirts using woven flax to capture sand.

Working with students from Mercury Bay Area School, Mr Smither helped make 2m to 3m-long flax skirts which were tied to wooden stakes and hammered into the sand along Taputaputea Stream. The skirts will remain in place throughout the summer to see how effective they are at naturally collecting sand.

Public feedback on the draft Whitianga coastal action plan closes at 5pm on January 31.

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- Waikato Times

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