Editorial: Erosion at camp must be tackled

By Lawrence Gullery

Hawke's Bay is home to one of New Zealand's last surviving beach camping communities, but its survival depends on a plan due to be handed in this week, which will show how it can be saved from relentless sea erosion.

The Clifton motorcamp is the gateway to Cape Kidnappers and for decades has been a popular summer holiday destination for hundreds of Kiwi and international visitors.

Recollections from long-time visitors suggest over the years about 30m of the camp has literally disappeared into the sea, as a result of wave action, eroding and harvesting shingle from the beach.

The inundation has accelerated in recent years as the heavy rain and high sea events appear more frequently, eating away at the 50m stretch of coastline in front of the motorcamp.

The latest event in July claimed a further 5m from the camp, forcing people to move their caravans to a nearby camp or relocate within Clifton.

The erosion has also impacted on the road into the camp, which has been moved at least twice, retreating into the neighbouring Clifton Station, which has signalled it is reluctant to give up any more land for another road relocation should erosion continue.

All of these factors have prompted the Hastings district and Hawke's Bay regional councils, as well as the owners of the camp land, Department of Conservation, to put urgency in determining the future of the camp.

They're looking towards Tauranga-based coastal management specialist Greg Jenks, who visited Clifton recently, to come up with a plan and suggestions on how to save the camp from being swallowed by the sea.

The Clifton Reserve Society, which manages the camp, is also waiting to see the report. The society also has to determine whether it is financially viable to continue operating the camp.

With less ground available for campers, does it have the numbers to continue? And the costs to prevent or slow sea erosion may fall upon the reserve society members.

The Clifton Marine Club is another party desperate to keep its place at the camp. It operates a boat ramp crucial for search and rescue operations near the Cape. The boat ramp also provides the marine club's members and those visiting the camp, access to some of the best fishing spots in the Bay.

Old pipes, rusted barrels and concrete debris, all remnants of past attempts to stop erosion at Clifton, provide an unattractive gateway to one of our biggest tourist attractions - the gannet colony at Cape Kidnappers.

It's now up to the councils, DoC, the reserve society and the marine club to show the rest of Hawke's Bay how it can be turned around.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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