Work to clear away material for the Napier shipping channel is being put to good use - to understand how it could help erosion along the Hawke's Bay coastline.

Those looking out to sea over the next three weeks will see the Albatros, a trailing suction hopper dredge, as it works to keep the shipping channel the correct depth for ships to transit to the port safely.

This maintenance is a consented activity that occurs every two to three years.

The difference this year is its use for the Coastal Hazards 2120 strategy. Although not part of the strategy, a Hawke's Bay Regional Council spokesman said it was a good opportunity for the port to monitor the dredging and its effects.


"For example, how much of the sand comes on to the beach profile and where, how long does it remain, etc."

The Clifton to Tangoio Coastal Hazards Strategy 2120 is a cross-council effort to understand coastal hazards risks and the management options for the Hawke's Bay coastline.

Napier Port infrastructure manager Michel de Vos said this maintenance dredging had been occurring for decades, but the Albatros had the capacity to dispose the material closer to shore than in the past.

"The good weather we've had has allowed the dredge to get to the front edge of our consented area close to Westshore Beach," he said.

"HBRC are monitoring the effects of the current disposal - such as how the dredge material travels after disposal."

This dredging is good news for long-time Westshore Beach campaigner Larry Dallimore, who said the dredging could be a "huge help" for the erosion-prone area.

The ship was not dropping the material in the position he would have liked, placing it generally between 200m and 300m off shore.

Still, he hoped the dredging would start to fill up the initial deficit of sand at the beach.

"You won't see the benefits probably for years other than you'll see a better beach," he said.

"The coastal process is a constant one where 30,000cu m of sand enters Westshore Bay and leaves Westshore Bay every year, so unless its constantly replenished... we're going to need regular dredging."

This dredging is unrelated to the port's new 350m wharf - which will increase the port's capacity - but was a "great opportunity" to test the modelling of their studies on the new wharf proposal, Mr de Vos said.

They hoped to file the resource consent for the proposed wharf in the coming months. It was estimated the wharf would take around four years.

"We may not proceed with the project for several years, but if we have the resource consent, we'll be ready to go when the demand is there."