9 Mar 2010

Call to protect coastal Hawke's Bay houses

2:14 pm on 9 March 2010

A Hawke's Bay coastal protection group says something needs to be done quickly to protect houses from big sea swells at Haumoana.

Waves of about 6.5 metres at high tide crashed onto houses at Haumoana on Sunday night. Early on Monday evening the swells were still heavy but waves had reduced to about 2 to 3 metres.

People in settlements along the coast were again warned to be prepared to evacuate if a high tide at 1.20am on Tuesday brought further heavy swells, but the high tide passed without incident.

Civil Defence monitored the area overnight, but Radio New Zealand's reporter says local residents seemed unconcerned, and none appeared to be up and about when the tide peaked.

Some of the 21 properties affected have retaining walls, but others have little protection.

A spokesperson for coastal protection lobby group Walking on Water, Keith Newman, says it appears the local council is against building a sea wall to protect 21 beachfront properties.

He says building breakwaters, or groynes, to deflect the wave action, would be the next best idea.

Mr Newman says it seems the local authorities want to get rid of the houses.

Beachfront resident John Bridgeman also says a sea wall needs to be constructed. He says a rock wall would cost between $3 million and $4 million.

Mr Bridgeman says people can't work out why the local council is opposed to a sea wall.

District council looks at options

Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule told Morning Report the Hastings District Council is looking at options to prevent the erosion from occurring, but says solutions are costly, technically complex and wrapped in red tape.

Mr Yule says the council is considering building an $18-million dollar groyne, however there are concerns over whether such a seawall would shift erosion problems further along the coast.

He says it's difficult to obtain consent for interventions like seawalls, and that they are regarded within the Resource Management Act as a measure of last resort.

Mr Yule says another option is to let the erosion continue while trying to resettle residents, but this would also be costly.

He says many residents who are demanding help from the council bought property knowing the risks.

"People are still buying (properties) and now they're asking the council and ... the community to help fund a solution, and we're working our way through that."

Mr Yule says a solution may be found in the next six to nine months.

Meanwhile, Civil Defence Controller for Hastings District Council, Mike Maguire, said on Tuesday there had been minor property damage, which could include septic tanks and effluent lines being uncovered, that is typical of swells of this nature.