Clifton camp closes

By Lawrence Gullery

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The weekend's high sea swells have forced the permanent closure of the coastal Clifton Motorcamp, bringing forward plans to set up a new $1 million park and camping ground as the gateway to Cape Kidnappers.

The only road to the Clifton camp was closed after it was damaged by the sea eroding more metres from its edge.

The handful of people staying at the camp opted to move out following Saturday afternoon's high tide.

Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said the priority was to apply for an emergency consent to have some way of allowing people to retrieve their caravans and other gear from Clifton.

The camp, which opened in the 1940s, would be closed and planning a new one on higher ground behind the nearby Clifton "No2" camp could begin. However, the new camp might not be built for another 18 months.

"We've been talking for some time, about six months, with the Clifton Reserve Society about moving the camp and everyone agrees to the concept and that we need to identify a new location," Mr Yule said.

"The new camp is on private land but the owner has expressed a willingness to explore the idea. The council has led the change and it's pretty keen to find a long-term viable solution for people to continue enjoying camping out there."

Mr Yule said the Hastings District Council had earmarked the new camp in its annual plan but had not specified a budget.

"I am picking it could cost up to $1 million, certainly thousands of dollars to relocate facilities but we are seeking to have a beautiful new park, with trees, available all year round including a significant camping component."

The second issue forced by the recent sea erosion was whether the Clifton Marine Club, which was inside the Clifton motorcamp, could keep operating.

"If that is to stay we need road access and at the moment the road is closed," Mr Yule said.

The club's boat ramp provided critical access to Hawke Bay. The nearest option was in Napier.

"The marine club is protected by the reef but we risk being in a situation of it being marooned with no road access, unless we can repair the road or find another road into it, which will be expensive," Mr Yule said.

Long-term camper Ian Chapman had planned to stay at the camp over the weekend but on Saturday afternoon was warned high sea swells were battering Clifton.

"I went out there and saw a disaster.

"I found the road blocked off but decided to walk in. I saw the road getting chopped up by the sea outside the shop and people were leaving.

"I just rushed in to grab what I could out of our caravan and got out of there."

Hastings District Council emergency management manager Trevor Mitchell said the high sea swells were at their peak during high tides on Saturday about 4pm and again yesterday about 4am.

Power to the camp had been temporarily switched off on Saturday night.

Mr Chapman, who had been a regular visitor to the camp for 15 years, was heading to Ireland for a trip next week and would have to decide whether to remove his caravan.

"I am worried about what's going to happen while I am away. The hardest thing is how my insurance company will view the situation.

"I've got a few thousand dollars in assets at the camp.

"I'm also a member of the Clifton Marine Club which also has a lot of assets there as well."

Mr Chapman said it was "gut-wrenching" to see the camp being eroded by the sea and was critical of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council's lack of action on the problem.

"Clifton was my weekend retreat. I have a hectic job and I love getting out there to chill out, sit on the porch and look out to sea. It's the best spot in New Zealand as far as I'm concerned and it's being destroyed."

Regional council general manager of operations Liz Lambert said the council would consider any proposal for erosion protection or an interim permit for people to remove their belongings. The council discussed the erosion problem with the society and the Hastings council about a year ago.

"They have put forward verbally what they are considering but we would still require the detail in writing."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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