Surf's up at the Mount - almost

By Juliet Rowan

The saga of Mt Maunganui's artificial surf reef is coming to an end but it could be some time yet before it produces the waves envisaged.

The second, right-breaking, side of the reef is nearing completion after $350,000 of donations received this winter allowed the stalled $1.5 million project to continue.

The task of filling the giant bags that make up the reef resumed 10 days ago following completion of the left break in November.

Work on the second section is expected to finish this week, but the Mount Reef Trust says surfers should not expect clean waves from the arrow-shaped structure immediately.

Trust executive David Neilson said a storm was needed to wash out a sand bar that had unexpectedly formed in front of the reef.

"The seabed has risen, making the waves break in front of the reef instead of on it," he said.

Mr Neilson was confident a strong northerly swell would get rid of the unwanted sand, but could not predict when that would happen. "We can't do anything about nature."

The sand bar is just the latest hiccup in a project that has spanned 10 years and suffered financial, technical and weather difficulties.

Only the first half of the reef was finished after rough seas snapped an 8m anchor leg on a barge being used to secure the lattice framework to the seabed in November.

Both the barge and the frame needed repairs, delaying construction and increasing costs, which rose from an initial estimate of $1 million.

A window of fine weather and donations from Pub Charity ($200,000), Bay Trust ($80,000), Lion Foundation ($50,000), Perry Foundation ($15,000) and Southern Trust ($5000) allowed work on the right break to begin on September 15.

Another $50,000 is needed to complete the project.

A team of 12 has worked 16-hour days to fill the bags, using two barges, two diggers and two pipelines carrying sand.

The completed reef will have 24 bags filled with 6500cu m of sand. The bags range in size from 1m high and 35m long to 3.5m high and 50m long.

Mr Neilson said filling the bags on the right break had proved more difficult than the left because of the direction it faced.

Resulting ground swells made it extremely tough for divers to get the pipes into the bags.

"I thought this half would be all plain sailing but it's just been a whole new set of issues," he said, laughing.

The reef is about 250m offshore from Tay St, which is about five minutes' drive south of the main beach. It is designed for up to 50 surfers at a time.


Breakers

Size: The completed reef will have 24 bags filled with 6500cu m of sand. The bags range in size from 1m high and 35m long to 3.5m high and 50m long.

Cost: $1.5 million.

Time: The project has spanned 10 years.

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