Mount reef builders battle big swells

By Juliet Rowan

Rough seas yesterday caused havoc for a team installing the country's first artificial surf reef at Mt Maunganui.

Large swells snapped an 8m anchor leg on a barge being used to secure the reef to the seabed, sending the barge careering towards shore.

The accident happened just after midnight, causing a second "spud leg" anchor to buckle as the barge, laden with a digger, was pushed to within 20m of the beach.
The second spud leg was wedged 2m into the sand, destabilising the barge and forcing the Mount Reef team to deploy a tug to keep it upright.

The battle, which was carried out in strong winds and a choppy 1m swell, went on most of the day until the tide rose enough to allow the barge to be towed away.

Anxious members of the team were on the beach in the afternoon, while locals looked on.

Project manager Kerry Black said the team had been unable to assess the condition of the reef, which they began installing on Saturday, because they were occupied with the barge.

Last night, Mt Maunganui Reef Trust executive officer David Neilson confirmed that damage was minimal.

Mr Neilson had snorkelled to the seabed and said that, although visibility was poor, two of the largest bags appeared undamaged.

"Those were absolutely fine," he said.

The team had hoped to finish the first half of the reef today.

The $1 million reef has been 10 years in the making and has overcome numerous hurdles, including lack of funds, residents' objections and, more recently, bad weather.

Mr Neilson called yesterday's events "just a little bit of a setback".

He was confident the first half of the reef would be finished with one to two days of fine weather.

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