The cumulative effects of weather and people using the beach had led to a serious erosion problem that became most noticeable in the late 1990s. This erosion was best observed by the amount of sand that used to gather in the Rocks Road car park and blow up the street. A programme of coastal planting began around five years ago in order to combat this, including the installation of wind barriers and beach access walkways. Limited success was experienced with these measures and efforts were intensified two years ago, using the successful beach regeneration at Mt Maunganui as a model.
The first step in the process was the construction of a sea wall that drew its fair share of doubters to begin with. It is an angled extension of the existing wall that is dual purpose. It houses a culvert redirecting storm water that previously discharged right beside the children’s playground and across the beach. The second purpose is to absorb the force of the waves in this corner of the beach where some of the worst erosion was occurring.
The sea wall took contractors Fulton Hogan 6 months to build, (completed September 2005), cost 2.7 million dollars and has been an unmitigated success. Once the sea wall was complete the next stage of the project got underway.
First, the dunes were replenished with nine thousand cubic metres of sand, then Council, with funding assistance through the Honda Treefund for revegetation projects and the help of dedicated volunteers from schools and the public began a Coast Care programme. This saw 12,000 spinifex and pingao planted at the beach in their first year (2005). In 2006 the plantings were topped up with another 7000 new plants. Posts, ropes and signs were put up to keep people off the newly planted areas and allow the plants to get a good hold. Seventeen local people volunteer as Beach Rangers to keep an eye on the plantings and ensure beach users are keeping out of protected areas.
The results so far have exceeded all expectations with well over a metre of sand building up already and the plants showing signs of advancing down the beach toward the sea.
The future for the beach will see more top up plantings and further spacing out of the posts and ropes protecting the dunes. However experts warn that while progress has been excellent, the nature of sand dunes means protection work will have to be on-going. All beach users are asked to respect new plantings and only use the designated beach access points.