September 2020 Update
The huge elephant in the room. To be blunt, there is no magic wand that’s going to fix this issue. Lots of people are getting grumpy about this topic and with excellent reason. It’s heartbreaking to see community facilities like the Mercury Bay Boating Club under threat. If you live on one of those shoreline properties, watching your front lawn disappearing down the beach with every new easterly blow is awful for those affected and leaves them frustrated and angry.
Recent storms have seen dune plantings washed away, posts, ramps and fences lost and old pohutukawa trees under threat of falling into the sea. People connected with the Boat Club, residents, Council staff and WRC representatives are all monitoring the situation, taking photographs and undertaking surveys regularly to provide information that can assist with decision making in the future. Hopefully, by building up a portfolio of photographic evidence and measurements, the people tasked with deciding what to do (or not to do) will be fully informed and will make the right call.
This is a complex subject, and we will be watching it with intense interest. As a newly formed Residents and Ratepayers Association, we do not have the resources or the depth of knowledge to make a significant contribution to this discussion at this time. The Coastal Management Panels, set up across the district, will be looking at this in great detail. WRRA does not have a representative on these panels.
There is a feeling amongst many community members that this subject has been consulted, reported on and discussed to death over the last 15 years (and longer). Many folks feel like we keep going around in circles until a big storm happens and trucks full of rocks are brought in when things get desperate. It’s happened before.
It’s fair to say that the community and the experts are pretty much split down the middle on this subject, and that’s probably not going to change.
Central Government (and WRC, following government guidelines and legislation) tend to favour a “hands-off, soft solutions” approach. Dune plantings are an example. The scientists are saying on one hand that we’re at the end of an erosion cycle, and the dunes will start to build up again. On the other hand, science tells us that we can expect ongoing climate change, hot, dry summers, more droughts, and ongoing sea-level rise is now so strong that we would be foolish not to prepare for it. Many local people want hard options and point to the sections of the beach that wouldn’t exist if rocks hadn’t been used a few years ago.
There is no easy solution, and any that is found is likely to be extremely costly, long-winded (as if it wasn’t already), tangled up in consents and not a perfect solution for anyone.
So what are we, as the Whitianga Residents and Ratepayers Association, going to do? Right now, we have no option but to sit on the fence and not do much at all. We don’t have the funds, the resources or the mandate from our members to take a position on this subject. We will keep watching and listening. We’ll keep gathering information and taking photographs, going to meetings, participating in the process where we can. Apart from that, we are very limited in our capabilities.