Urgent survey on erosion

By Laura Mills

Hokitika residents will be asked with urgency whether they want to finance sea protection works, with the next king tides due to batter the town in less than a fortnight.
The West Coast Regional Council on Tuesday released a report from a Niwa expert, outlining a range of options in response to the worsening encroachment, which has already claimed a picnic shelter on the foreshore and forced the removal of an art installation and the World War Two pillbox.
The regional council also agreed to push ahead with a survey of Hokitika residents, with a quick turnaround time. If supportive, a rating district will be formed and townsfolk will fund the foreshore protection works.
“The next king tide is June 23,” council chief executive Chris Ingle said.
“They could lose another 10m of beach, into Beach Street itself. There’s only 9m to go in front of the Beachfront Hotel.”
Mr Ingle has asked the Westland District Council to run the idea of a survey past its councillors before their next meeting on June 27 — after the king tides.
The regional council stressed that the decision to form a rating district — and fund protection work — would be up to local residents.
The Hokitika foreshore has been prone to sea erosion throughout the town’s history. In 1913-14 wooden groynes and sandbags failed to stop the sea destroying the rear of shops in Revell Street. It cut again in 1984, when one king tide pushed down into Weld Street. Sandbags were used again and several rock groynes were built at right angles to the beach; they remain but have since been buried by the sand.
“It could be worse than that this time,” Mr Ingle said.
Monitoring showed erosion at the Hokitika River mouth was worse than the 1980s; at Stafford Street it was the same as the 1980s; and at Camp and Weld streets it was getting close to 1984 levels.
“We don’t know when it will stop. It could be this week, but what if it’s not? Is it into the shops on Revell Street?”
The council will put to residents the option of a ‘last line of defence’ — a protective seawall.
Mr Ingle wrote to the district council on May 15 about forming a rating district to pay for a seawall, but only recently received a reply.
He said he was asked to address the next district council meeting, but because that was still weeks away the regional council had asked the mayor and chief executive if they could move more quickly.
“The erosion is getting quite critical, close to the road and back of private property,” Mr Ingle said.
Cr Duncan Davidson, of Hokitika, said: “I thought they (district council) would have been approaching us.”
Mr Ingle said there had been a build-up of sand at the river end of the beach but the Niwa scientist did not see evidence of it shifting north towards the town.
The scientist also noticed one of the existing groynes, near Weld Street, did not appear to be working and trapping sand. Instead, the sand was the same level on either side of the rocks.