Shifting sand about on an exposed and erosion-prone stretch of beach is a dicey task at the best of times, so who better to call in than an experienced local contracting firm by the name of Tricky Excavations.
His digger got on the odd precarious angle but Stan Sedcole wasn’t pulling a lever wrong out at Ocean Beach last week as he cleared old vegetation away and set about reshaping the sandbank that forms a natural barrier between the strong tidal currents and the overlooking car parking and picnicking area alongside the council toilet block there.
But though Stan made short work of his task, a digger’s rarely a popular sight at a beach and Waikato District Council staffer Noel Barber was away placating an upset nearby resident when the Chronicle called by to take a photo.
As it turned out most concerns were quickly placated once it became clear the reshaping was only the first stage in a “Beachcare” project aimed at fighting erosion — even if there was some later worry for the exposed sandbank as a lethal mix of fierce northwesterlies and violent storms brought fresh foreshore erosion elsewhere about Raglan.
Waikato Regional Council “Beachcare” coordinator Sam Stephens says it’s a three-way project with the district council managing accessway and earthworks aspects, the regional council supplying and managing planting of native species effective in combating erosion, and the community set to join in the planting day later this month.
He says iwi are also involved, and they and the two councils met earlier this year to plan the work. Iwi will also help directly with the replanting.
“It’s a continuation of the works started at this site two years ago where we have been reshaping and replanting the eroding bank with native dune plants,” Sam says. The project, he says, aims to “help mitigate coastal erosion, improve natural character and biodiversity values of the area, and allow the public to be involved in a hands-on way”.
Sam says the native plants chosen to fight the erosion tide are spinifex, pingao — which is culturally significant to iwi as a weaving resource, and also has spiritual values — and wiwi.
“A lot of these native species have been lost from our coastlines as a result of cattle grazing, rabbits, development and recreation — motorbikes and the like — yet they provide a crucial role in building dunes and providing protection from erosion,” he says.
He adds other species such as kikuyu grass and the South African ice plant, which currently dominate the Wainamu or Ocean Beach area, do not have the same ability to build dunes and self-repair.
Sam says as with the previous work slightly to the west, the public will be invited to a special planting day. This is expected to be as early as Saturday week — September 22 — once work on fencing the new planting off from the public and providing new accessways is finished.
All-up the project is expected to cost only $7000, thanks to the free community labour. The regional council puts the cost of plants at $4000 and the district council estimates its costs at $3000.