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Erosion and no action – Part One

There is much to say about Warren and his life as it is colourful, adventurous and he is a high achiever. But this story for now is about the issue of erosion and the stalemate situation that have residents wondering about the future of their homes. Warren believes there is a need to tell the story.
 |  Warren Harris  | 
Erosion and no action

Warren and his wife live on Buffalo Beach Road (also SH25)  just near the Boating Club (now on stilts). They have a big home often visited by their adult children and their families.

Warren Harris or Wozza as he is known to his friends, is a long-time resident of Whitianga, Patron of the Mercury Bay Game Fishing Club and an active member of the wider community.

I am not on my own. Many locals feel the same. They realise that, but when they feel that they cannot take any action to secure the future of their homes, and months go by, and nothing is done by authories, we need to speak up.

I bought this house after I came from Kuaotunu. It was the worst house in the best street. However,  I am an active person and know a bit about building, so I kept improving and adding for children and then grandchildren.”

When we came here,  there was a big  sand dune in front of us. We needed to look over it to see the ocean. There were no trees on the spit. There never was. Sometimes, people talk of a forest. New Zealand had a lot of forests cut down that should not have been, but there was no forest here. The notes in the diaries of Sir Joseph Banks describe the area as a spit – treeless. It was sand.

We started losing the bank behind me when the Boating Club was constructed. They had to flatten out the dune to be able to position the Boating Club building. This was year’s before the recent storms of Hale and Gabrielle washed the bank away and the club building to be uplifted.

To flatten the sand dune to such a large extent as they did at the time of the construction caused the bank to be destabilised. However, the local Council leadership at the time, pushed for the boating club to be here and there was no accounting for objections. The question was asked at the time, “What are you going to do about the bank?” But it was not answered.

People who came to swim and enjoy the beach would tunnel into the sand of the bank and it became grossly undercut. They tried to stop people doing this but eventually it collapsed.

There are photos showing this and it was clear then that the structure so close to the bank was compromised.

At the time of the collapse of the bank there was a hurried filling-in to make things more secure. The fact is that the Boating Club building flattened the sand hills. Why build a yacht club in the middle of a surfing beach?

A good, strong, and well constructed sea wall could fix the matter of the erosion which is so obvious here. We need to stop putting on band-aids. We need to stop pretending we have a great number of years in between storm events which would enable dunes to reform and stabilise. Those years we just don’t have.

A recent comment by one of the Council staff seems vindictive. “It’s global warming and you are just going to have to retreat.”

What do residents do with that kind of  statement? In the first place, they purchased the land in good faith and were granted a Resource Consent (for which they paid well) from the very Council who is now telling them to retreat.

All the sand that was pushed down at the time to flatten the area for the Boating Club has washed away and is sitting out there making  the sea floor shallower. We are practical people. We have solutions for  the issues that face us. We do not know if our solutions will last 100 years but neither does anyone else. We know that we love this town and we love living here and we need an opportunity to work with the plans we have to fix the shoreline in front of us.