Swells pummel Punakaiki beach camp

By Teresa Smith -
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Constant publicity about the sea erosion near Punakaiki Rocks was alarming people with bookings at the local campground. Photo / Supplied
Constant publicity about the sea erosion near Punakaiki Rocks was alarming people with bookings at the local campground. Photo / Supplied

Six-metre swells pounding Punakaiki in recent days have brought down two big trees on the edge of the camping ground and taken off up to another half a metre off the frontage.

Punakaiki Beach Camp lessee Craig Findlay said the seas were so powerful they had topped the large fertiliser sand bags and gone over the top, striking the bank.

The camp had now instituted a policy that when Civil Defence warned of large seas the camp would no longer book out sites nearest the sea, he said.

"That's OK now as we don't have the numbers, but if that continues it'll affect our bottom line"

Mr Findlay said there was new erosion damage near the wetland where the sewage was treated.

"We're bracing ourselves for more - If we have continuation of these events for the next month we'll get to the point where it'll be close to closing a couple of sites for safety sake alone."

Constant publicity about the sea erosion was alarming people with bookings for later in the year, he said.

A wedding party which had booked out most of the camp in October had been in contact to see if what was happening might spoil their plans.

However, the camping ground had had a lot of support via email from people around the country who had holidayed at the camp and were concerned for its future.

"We'll be doing more work. The community workers are expected out this week to help with re-digging the bags. We've got additional fertiliser bags on site ready to go."

The camp is owned by the Buller District Council.

Ratepayers in the Punakaiki rating district have until Wednesday to give their views to the West Coast Regional Council (WCRC) about a proposal to extend the sea wall.

The council has presented a proposal to extend the wall, to protect the area where the camping ground is located, which will cost up to $550,000.

At a meeting between the council and ratepayers last week most present supported the extension but there were concerns about how the costs were being shared.

The WCRC is due to discuss recommendations about the proposal at its June 6 meeting.

Mr Findlay said a tornado had also brushed past Punakaiki last week.

"We were driving from Barrytown to Punakaiki last Wednesday. Around 4.30pm we saw a large tornado forming out to sea from Golden Sands Road.

"It was a large vortex shape. We were travelling at 100km/h and it just stayed in front of us."

He said one of his sons, who was at the camping ground at the same time, said there was suddenly a huge wind around the camp and trees blew wildly.

Another local resident, a couple of kilometres up the road, reported coming home to find chairs and a table blown from one end of the deck to the other and broken branches from trees on the same side of the house.

Mr Findlay thought Punakaiki had copped the periphery of the tornado.

Meanwhile, Civil Defence warned this morning that the 6m swells were still running. They were expected to ease later today.

- Westport News

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