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Building blocks combine to make an eco reef

Construction taking place on Cape Palliser Rd. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

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A battered road on the Cape Palliser coast has received a world-first upgrade that is expected to prevent erosion and prepare the area for rising tides caused by climate change.

With traditional sea walls no longer offering the protection needed, the new construction work at Whatarangi on Cape Palliser Rd was completed this week. In addition to creating an extension of the beach, the work has added two metres of land to the road.

Henrik Waiker, Fred Waiker and Ed Wilcock on top of their EcoReef design. PHOTO/GEORGE SHIERS

The project was called EcoReef, and was created by Fred Waiker, his son Henrik, and Ed Wilcock as an alternative to other wave barriers such as hard walls or boulders, which have proven inefficient and expensive due to the need for constant repairs.

“There is a lot of data now that hard walls don’t work in virtually any environment,” Waiker said.

Boulder walls were very fragile and could collapse entirely if one boulder came loose, requiring regular rebuilds. Boulders also needed to be removed from their natural environments and shipped around New Zealand, creating a large carbon footprint.

Unlike boulders, the Cape Palliser wall is constructed of concrete hexagonal blocks that interlock to create a flexible structure that allows energy to be dispersed.

“What our structure does is enable you to utilise the flexibility of the design to build structures which are either very diffusing of all that wave energy but can also be used to actually retain and capture sand and material from the beach to recreate a more natural beach wall.”

Although smaller projects using the EcoReef blocks have been constructed, the Cape Palliser build was the first construction of the wall in its designed environment, and a storm shortly after completion had already proven its ability to function.

“We have done a few smaller builds on land but that is the first proper trial in a sea environment,” Waiker said.

“It proved one of our key design objectives, which is to make a structure which you could build in very difficult environments and build it quickly so you can work around tides.”

The structure is designed to last at least a minimum of 50 years, but it is hoped to exceed this and last well into the future. The permanent nature of the blocks allowed for native plants to be grown on top, creating a more natural environment.

The structure allowed for the recreation and preservation of native beaches.

Although the build was completed in only five days, it took three years to get all the resource consents. However, now a completed build is in the ground the EcoReef team hoped it will become a far smoother process.

“The 100 metres of coastline repair and widening was completed in 36 hours, exceeding everyone’s expectations and proving that this system is not only a permanent solution, but fast to construct – which is vital in these often-difficult environments.”

If additional blocks are needed, the project can be easily expanded at any time due to the interlocking nature of the design and its ease to build. The wall also had the potential to reclaim land that has already been lost to the sea, as areas such as parking spaces or picnic tables could be built on top.

Although no further builds were planned, EcoReef had received interest from overseas.

“The potential for this system is huge, with interest already from Australia and the Pacific Islands, but the team wanted to complete the first build here in Wairarapa where it was conceived.”

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