Back in 1968, the seaside homes of Haumoana were a piece of Hawke's Bay paradise to those that bought them.

Owners looked out their front windows, and over their backyards, at 50m of gravel beach, the azure of the Pacific Ocean frothing away safely in the distance.

No longer.


The clock's moved forward, the thermometer's been turned up, and the ocean has arrived at the doorstep. Now you can get a house on Clifton Rd, Haumoana, for just $75,500.

Life on Clifton Rd can still beat Wellington on a good day.

An already abandoned property at Haumoana. Photo / Paul Taylor
An already abandoned property at Haumoana. Photo / Paul Taylor

As resident Shirley Coker says, they look out for each other, get along with each other and have created a community to be proud of.

But on a bad day, like one in 2018 when waves stormed up and over hastily constructed seawalls, drenching windows and roofs with sea spray, it must be nothing short of terrifying.

Haumoana is Hawke's Bay's climate change flashpoint.

Yes, the sea has inched slowly closer because of a specific erosion event - historical records show the whole coastline from the mouth of the Ngaruroro southwards to the tip of Cape Kidnappers is generally in retreat.

But what cannot be ignored is that the sea has also been emboldened by climate change.

It might have been angry in a big storm before, but it is downright furious now.


Storm surge has in recent years caused havoc in Granity on the West Coast, in areas of Abel Tasman, and in the Firth of Thames.

It's a matter of time before Haumoana also hogs the national headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Hawke's Bay Regional Council, Napier City Council and Hastings District Council are trying to be proactive, to their credit.

Their joint effort in pioneering New Zealand's first "adaptive strategy" for sea level rise from Tangoio to Clifton has garnered international praise.

But it's probably too little, too late for the Clifton Rd beachfront.

Resident Jo Williams, who we spoke to in January, told us that sometimes when she was sitting down, she could feel the ocean pulling the gravel out from underneath her house.


What an unbelievably surreal feeling that must be.

If only we all felt of the sands of time slipping away from right underneath our feet.

Perhaps then we would all be compelled to act on the crisis that is our warming planet.