Hefty bill looms for Greymouth ratepayers to save park from sea

4:59 pm on 20 October 2020

Saving Jellyman Park at Cobden from the sea will cost at least $1.6 million, and it is not clear who will pay for it.

The Cobden foreshore during a storm

The Cobden foreshore during a storm Photo: Supplied / Greymouth Star / LDR

West Coast Regional Council has priced up three options to try to halt the coastal erosion that has been eating away at the foreshore since 2018, when Cyclone Fehi wrecked the adjoining freedom-camping car park developed by the Grey District Council.

The three options were put to the annual meeting of the Greymouth Joint Floodwall Committee last week, giving alternative alignments for any new rock embankment, and the building of a new berm.

  • Option 1: The most expensive at $1.75m, would give Jellyman Park a 50m setback from the beach and would offer the best protection long-term.
  • Option 2: At $1.6m has a 25m setback, and attempts to balance encroachment on to the park with a narrow beach buffer.
  • Option 3: $1.5m, has a setback of just 5m and would be only a short-term measure, leaving the park still susceptible to storm damage and ongoing downdrift erosion.

A report by the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa), commissioned by the regional council in 2017, warned the Grey District Council that its beachfront car park - tarsealed and with kerbing and channelling - had been built too close to the sea and was exacerbating the erosion.

Instead of removing the freedom camping area, the council upgraded it and strengthened the protective rockwall, making the situation worse, in the opinion of Niwa coastal scientist Mike Allis.

Along with Jellyman Park and old Cobden landfill, four neighbouring houses are now also at risk from the sea.

Councillors agreed it would be unfair to expect them to pick up a substantial part of the tab for the protection work now required.

The regional council is responsible for building and maintaining floodwalls and rock embankments on the Coast and creates rating districts to recover the cost from properties that directly benefit.

Jellyman Park is not on its books.

The current Greymouth rating district pays only for the floodwalls that protect the town from the Grey River.

Grey District Council members on the joint floodwall committee asked if that rating district could be extended to include the work needed to protect Jellyman Park and Cobden from coastal erosion.

They also inquired hopefully whether government funding for 'shovel-ready' projects might be available to help out.

Regional council operations manager Randall Beal said he would investigate, but there was no way any proposal could meet the late October funding deadline for the four current flood protection projects, spread from Westport to Franz Josef Glacier.

Councillors agreed a site visit to Jellyman Park was overdue to check out the extent of the erosion.

Regional councillor Peter Ewen put forward a plan to reconfigure the park's playing fields, sacrificing one and reorienting the remaining field to run parallel to the sea. A loop road could be built around the park with a new parking area on the Cobden side, Ewen said.

Greymouth Mayor Tania Gibson said her council would now consider all the options for the threatened park, and come back to the regional council with a decision.

no metadata

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs