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Erosion shifting sandy beaches

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

Coastal erosion in Wairarapa is more than just washed away baches along Cape Palliser Rd, though this is the most recognised image of it.

The issue is one being addressed by coastal communities throughout the region, in particular the popular tourist hot spot, Castlepoint.

Anders Crofoot, who has owned Castlepoint station with his wife Emily for the past 18 years said the amount of sand on the beach there had progressively “diminished”.

“You look at Castle Rock and on a reasonably regular basis that is shedding boulders off the top,” he said.

“And in terms of the beach, the amount of sand comes and goes on a regular basis, but over time, I’d say a fair bit of sand has been removed from there.”

He said an extreme example of erosion in the area was when the Castlepoint Races were cancelled years ago for “lack of sand on the beach”.

The 2012 race was the first after 10 years of cancellations as sand returned to the beach.

They have been held every year since.

“At one point, when we were inspecting the beach for the races, one of the stewards said when he was a kid, you just stepped off the road, and straight onto the beach,” Mr Crofoot said.

“The sea wall there is now a good two metres from the road level to the beach – and that says there’s probably a metre or two of sand that used to be there that isn’t anymore.”

A new survey by Coastal Restoration Trust of New Zealand shows more than 70 per cent of Wairarapa people have noticed the effects of beach erosion over the past year.

Trust spokesperson Tim Park said beaches like Castlepoint, “get a big hammering in summer”, which doesn’t help with erosion.

“In winter, the big storms come in and take a lot of sand off the beach and waves cut away at the dunes,” he said.

“That’s what we see as erosion.

“In summertime that sand actually gets washed back in again by normal waves and builds up on the beach where native plants can build back over it, and that’s the normal cycle over a year.

“If in summertime we go there and camp on the beach and drive over the plants, they can’t recover, so gradually that dune gets smaller and smaller and is less able to be naturally resilient.”

Mr Crofoot said the Castlepoint community had been “doing a great job” with planting native dune plants such as spinifex to replace introduced dune species like marram grass.

“The way native and introduced species holds sand is different,” he said.

“Marram tends to bind it quite tightly, and in a storm the banks and dunes fall to bits, whereas the natives don’t tend to bind as tightly and are better suited to the purpose of erosion control.

“Those plants don’t do well when they’re driven over and that, so once you exclude that activity and they can do their job, they work quite well for erosion.”



Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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