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Hungry sea eating up coastline

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

Disappearing beaches, “compromised” baches and roads being destroyed by lapping seas are all signs of erosion, a big worry for Wairarapa people.

According to Coastal Restoration Trust of New Zealand, 79 per cent of Wairarapa people believe beaches are more eroded now than they were 20 years ago.

This comes as no surprise to coastal resident and South Wairarapa District Councillor Brian Jephson.

Mr Jephson lives on Cape Palliser Rd, a stretch full of “erosion hotspots” that lines the south coast of Wairarapa.

He said in the past decade there “must have been at least a dozen” baches affected by erosion, which were either demolished or “claimed by the sea”.

“In front of the DOC place at Te Kopi, I remember 40 years ago there was a 30m beach there.

“Now you step off the road and you’re in the water.

He said the sea appeared to be closer than ever along the coast.

“I don’t know if it’s because all of the sand has been stripped away but from what I can gather, it’s one of those things that has been happening for years and we’ve taken more notice of it now because it’s getting right next to the road.”

He said there was “more sea coming over the road in two or three spots than we ever had in the past”.

Cape Palliser Rd is the only road along that part of the coast.

“The council have spent a lot of money putting boulders and such in place to mitigate the effects of erosion,” he said.

“It’s a big worry, and as far as council is concerned, they’re definitely aware of it and are looking at alternatives.”

Tim Park from the Coastal Restoration Trust said rather than fighting a “losing battle” by building sea walls or “dumping loads of boulders”, coastal communities should be developed further inland.

“We’re shaping and managing our beaches to fit what people want and expect from them, rather than understanding and working with natural processes that are best for healthy, resilient beaches,” he said,

“We’re loving our beaches to death. We’re driving on them, building sea walls that change beach dynamics and sand movement, developing beachfront property virtually right on top of them.”

In the Coastal Restoration Trust Survey, 82 per cent of Wairarapa people would consider designating beaches as public spaces not permitted for commercial or residential development.

But only 4 per cent would “definitely support” this.

“It’s natural for us to want to live as close to the beach as possible, but in many places we’ve simply gotten too close,” Mr Park said.

Mr Jephson said South Wairarapa District Council had “explored the option of going inland”.

“But I guess there’s a big cost associated.

“As long as we can keep the road open and there’s no huge loss of property, this is the track they’ll continue.”

Up until now, NZTA has funded Cape Palliser Rd, which costs, on average, $1m in repairs annually.

From July 2018, the SWDC will be up for 48 per cent of the road’s maintenance and repair costs after a change in NZTA funding.

About 4km of the 34km stretch however will be retained by NZTA, with these being the most problematic areas.


  1. Say have you guys ever considered the possibility that `sea level rise` as a consequence of `CLIMATE CHANGE` just possibly could be a factor here. If you want to know more about that subject contact Dr Jim Renwick of Victoria University. He`s an absolute wealth of knowledge on the subject.
    Apparently that big block of ice to the south called The Antarctic is melting because 400parts per million of CO2 in the atmosphere (commonly called `carbon emissions) is reflecting the suns heat back into the sea (about 90% of it). This is causing the land based ice in the Antarctic to melt from below. (Yes the ` permanent` land based ice is below the normal sea level).
    In the Arctic the sea ice has gone bigtime and the land based stuff on Greenland is disappearing at the rate of thousands of CUBIC KILOMETERS p/a.
    Don`t believe me, go read the science studies. (My arn`t the weather patterns a bit strange lately) I`d give the Cape Palliser access road a decade at best but more likely five years only.
    Climate change is coming to a place near you, like it or not.

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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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