Cliff stabilisation and wall re-building work has started above Herne Bay's Sentinel Beach on one of New Zealand's most expensive residential properties.

The project, on the property owned by Ben Cook, is to reinstate the crib wall above the beach in New Zealand's wealthiest suburb. Cook paid $24 million for the land in 2015 making that the year's top-priced residential sale.

Cook said he was paying for the extensive work on the cliff which extends beneath the eastern face of his property.

Work has started on a crib wall at Sentinel Beach in Herne Bay under the home of Ben Cook. Photo/Dean Purcell
Work has started on a crib wall at Sentinel Beach in Herne Bay under the home of Ben Cook. Photo/Dean Purcell

On Wednesday morning, two barges and a motorboat arrived to continue work which began last year. Skips piled three high and heavy earth-moving equipment, including two diggers, are now at the cliff edge beside the popular north-facing beach.

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"We are re-building a concrete crib wall which extends along the eastern face of my property, along Sentinel beach," Cook said.

"We were conscious that a lot of people recreate on Sentinel beach, next to the crib wall and we believed it posed a safety hazard to the public. So we decided to be proactive and apply to council for a consent to rebuild the wall.

"As part of the rebuild, we have had to excavate the eastern cliff face of our property, which is why things look so messy presently. No part of our driveway has fallen down," Cook said.

Helen James, project co-ordinator for Lindesay Construction, said the work was needed after ground movement late last year.

Work has started on a crib wall at Sentinel Beach in Herne Bay under the home of Ben Cook. The old crib wall came away last October. Photo/Dean Purcell
Work has started on a crib wall at Sentinel Beach in Herne Bay under the home of Ben Cook. The old crib wall came away last October. Photo/Dean Purcell

"The crib wall, which is more than 30 years old, collapsed around October due to quite heavy rain so we are securing the top property," James said.

"We reinstated the driveway last year. Around 11 anchors, each 22m long, have been driven vertically into the cliff. They are threaded rods punched through and secured with a great big nut. We finished that just before Christmas."

The driveway to Cook's house which he bought in 2015 for $24 million. Photo/Dean Purcell.
The driveway to Cook's house which he bought in 2015 for $24 million. Photo/Dean Purcell.

Diggers had now just begun removing debris from the cliff and the beach and would place that into skips on the barges, taken from the site, she said. Temporary poles were driven into the sea bed to moor the barges and the entire beach site has been fenced off from public access way. Pohutakawa lining the cliff face are protected, she said.

The fencing was to protect the public because safety on the site was paramount during the works, James stressed.

Cook has riparian rights, meaning he owns land to the high tide mark. That means he also owns the cliffs.

"This will take six to eight weeks, we're hoping a bit shorter," James said.

An entirely new interlocking concrete crib walling will be built above the beach.

"The barges are required because it's the only practical way to remove the old crib wall debris from the beach area which is adjacent to the crib wall," Cook said.

"As the wall [and the parts of Sentinel Beach adjacent to it] are on my property's title, I'm paying for the works. I don't know what they will cost until they are complete, but the result will be a new and safe crib wall along that part of Sentinel Beach which borders my property."