Campaigner has doubts about erosion solutions

By Roger Moroney

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SAVE THE BEACH: Larry Dallimore on the stopbank in front of the Westshore Surf Club, which is being eroded away. PHOTO/WARREN BUCKLAND
SAVE THE BEACH: Larry Dallimore on the stopbank in front of the Westshore Surf Club, which is being eroded away. PHOTO/WARREN BUCKLAND

LIKE MANY Hawke's Bay people of a certain age, Larry Dallimore remembers fondly the times spent on a sandy and serene stretch of seafront called Westshore Beach.

A beach that drew thousands during the summers, and at any time of the year for that matter.

For if the gentle seas did not entice, or the sands were too cold, then the miniature railway set-up over on the great swath of grasslands behind the beach always appealed.

He remembers the days when there was room for cars lined up two or three deep on the grassy edges to the sand-smothered beach.

Now such sights are captured only on old photographs or in the memories of those who would go there.

As a qualifier for understatement of the year, it would be fair to say things have changed at Westshore Beach.

Changes which have saddened, annoyed and frustrated Mr Dallimore who is clearly proud to wear the mantle of an "environmental campaigner".

But the changing landscape has also inspired him - to stand up, speak up and try to do something about it before erosion is ever declared to be the ultimate winner.

At this stage, he says, erosion appears to have the upper hand and he sees little merit in what the Napier City Council sees as erosion "solutions".

"The council voted to continue beach nourishment as the long-term solution, also known as managed retreat," said Mr Dallimore.

The direct result of that stance was the creation of the new Coastal Erosion Zone which was unveiled on the Hawke's Bay Regional Council website last November, he said.

The zone outlines the hundreds of homes, beach reserves, city assets and infrastructure in the potential erosion zone.

He said the annual decision to continue to build a higher seawall of shingle simply slowed the erosion process, and he described it as a "totally inadequate option".

"This is unacceptable when there is an opportunity to save a recreational beach by dredging sand to return natural replenishment and simple hard engineering at the southern end."

Mr Dallimore said beach erosion, which had accelerated over the past 35 years, was no coincidence in that it stepped up at the same time the Napier Port authorities began carrying out regular dredging programmes to deepen the shipping channel.

Ships were getting bigger - they needed deeper channels.

"Deepening the channel impeded the natural northerly flow of coastal sediment," Mr Dallimore said.

The natural flow of sand which gradually re-filled that channel, and had to be dredged out pretty well annually to keep it at a deep level, would have ended up on Westshore Beach - as it had in years gone by.
And the quantity of it would be enough to replenish the now stark beachfront. He put it simply - "this sand should be returned to Westshore where it belongs".

It could be, except that the suction dredge used by the port needed depths of more than 6m to dump spoil - and when it was loaded could not get close enough to shore for it to benefit the beach.

However, the port had previously used a smaller dredge which could get in closer to discharge and there had been a noticeable improvement at the northern end of the beach.
Closer to the surf club region, however, things were too shallow close in, so other options (if it were agreed that using dredged sand would be used as a replenishment programme) would need to be looked at, Mr Dallimore said.

Like pumping or jetting it in, or trucking from sites of surplus.

He was quick, however, to make one thing clear. Suggestions that the addition of groynes or breakwaters or other work could restore Westshore Beach to what it once was were off the mark. "It can't be restored but it can be saved."

Saved in terms of keeping erosion at bay - but the prospect of getting some good beachfront back could be a goer for the stretch north of the surf club. But it would require more regular dumping of sand scooped from the channel, Mr Dallimore said.

He said when the beach was losing about 30,000 cubic metres of sand to the channel every year, and only half that was being replaced as part of renourishment programmes, it was "only a patch-up".

In past dredging operations, sand had been dropped north of the surf club as the draught was better for getting in closer, and the results had been promising.

However, such drops needed to be made more frequently than the every three-year span now to be effective.

But the severely damaged strip from the surf club south toward Whakarere Ave required a "hard" engineering solution - suitable and solidly planted rocks to halt the erosion.

Similar to what had been done to the Hardinge Rd foreshore.

"If they hadn't, the sea would end up lapping at the road."

Mr Dallimore studied engineering and spent 25 years working in the quarry and hard material business - he worked on the port groynes and breakwater, and said he had seen the powers of the sea first-hand.

More so since shifting to Westshore around the time the beach began to change in the early 1980s.

Since he embarked on his campaign, he has compiled about 30 reports and submissions and said he was keen to work in with all the bodies involved - the port, Napier City Council and Hawke's Bay Regional Council.

"We just need more councillors to get involved because it is something that can be sorted," he said. "I just want there to be informed discussion."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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