Save Ocean Beach

The natural and physical resources of Ocean beach and its adjacent City Dunedin are under threat and you can help!

It will be mid 2011 .. a minimum of four years, before the Dunedin City Council is ready to apply for resource consents for the implementation of a chosen erosion protection method for 'fixing our beaches'.
Mick Reece's slogan 'No quick fix for beaches' (odt 20 July 07) has been made again last month in an article in the ODT (article below). The DCC Community Development Committee's second report since the July storm events and subsequent beach emergency was made at a council meeting on the 13th of November. Here is a link to the actual report online click here . This report was unanimously approved by the 12 city councillors in the presence of our re-elected Mayor, Peter Chin.

Why does it take an emergency situation for the city council to suddenly pull a (slow) finger to remedy years of well documented inaction?
Doesn't this long and drawn out process of deciding on a solution put our beach and the land assets behind it in a delicate and continual risk? - These assets I am talking about are the whole of St Kilda and South Dunedin, not just the sports grounds. Have we not just had a 'Beach Emergency' which is still in operation? With the real-time action of global warming/sea level rise and it's most threatening aspect increased storm events, is it too much of a risk to allow our already severely damaged coastal protection dunes and beach to be laid bare and vulnerable for four full years or more?
Now I do support that the council now wants to "do it once, do it right" to come up with a long-term sustainable solution to repair damage from continued erosion issues along Ocean Beach. Especially in light of the past events over the design of the new sea wall, it's continued failings, the controversy of its design, and the heightened erosion issues which have ensued since it's construction. Even though the then consultants OCTA assured that the adverse effects would be minimal in the resource consent applications.

[pic above: top frame, recovering from storm damage in 2002, and bottom frame, after some sand replenishment recovery work in August 07 with severely eroded dunes]

The Councils decision for this lengthy process is apparently due to the lack of hydrological data (wave action and sediment transport studies) on the Ocean Beach area. City Council has been advised by several independent experts to undertake these studies on many occasions over the last 100 years, and more essentially again prior to the design and construction of the new sea wall in 2002. It appears evident now, due to ongoing issues with the sea wall and sand retention, that the wall was not designed with the necessary hydrological data for it’s successful function:- erosion protection and preservation of the amenity value at St Clair beach.
* There are actually a number of studies specifically relating to the required data which were not used in 2002. In August 1999 a council meeting approved "$60,000, being the first of two allocations (totaling $120,000) for a hydrological study, be committed to the Esplanade Wall report as an authorised over-expenditure.” ~ what happened to these?
*I believe the data collection is a good move by the council, but my concern is the length of time with extended periods of public consultation and report commissioning. Especially since there is still an ‘emergency status’ under the Resource management act still in place where no notified resource consents are required for ongoing work.

BELOW: The time-line which is not on the online report, showing the 'Strategy Programme - Long Term Planning Process' as presented to the DCC by the Community Development Committee and accepted by the Mayor and City Councillors on the 13th November 2007.

More on the report: Outlined in the report was the approval of the current ‘Holding Pattern’ of sand replenishment and reno mattress construction where necessary for a period of four years whilst the council undertakes a comprehensive public consultation process and data collecting exercise before any kind of long term erosion protection is implemented. A first year data collection budget of approx $300,000 will be approved in January at the councils 2008 funding meeting.
So in summary: it will be at least another four years, the end of 2011, until the council will begin to implement a long term plan involving obtaining the necessary resource consents for the chosen erosion protection method/s based upon results from the data collection period. This 2011 resource consent process and probable periods of appeals and hearings may take many more years.

1. That the already severely eroded dune system is unable to naturally respond to future storm events, and will remain vulnerable to storm events for a period of at least four years, placing the entire area of St Kilda and South Dunedin in danger of inundation. These storm events are likely to increase and hit with more severity in light of sea level rise and changes in the global environment - report by International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC), such as we have witnessed this winter.
2. That the DCCouncil may find its self in a desperate state a few years down the track and be forced to construct hard structures such as breakwaters and or a sea wall along a major length of Ocean Beach.
3. That the Council MUST explore proven alternative solutions of erosion protection, such as 'Soft Shore' methods
as recommended by the IPCC, who do not advocate the use of hard engineering structures. I fully support Holmberg Technologies and their soft shore protection system, which I have submitted to the council, only to be told they weren't interested at this point.

The engineering path of creating a healthy functioning sand dune system (preserving the
natural characteristics of) and a wide healthy beach profile is paramount in preserving amenity value for both sports people and beach users. This will in turn will enhance the banks and provide for a better surfing experience.
The council is more concerned with retaining the sports grounds behind the dunes than preserving the natural characteristics of the dune system and beach.
Hard engineering structures, like breakwaters, sea walls and groins will definitely protect the sports grounds, but will be a phenomenal cost for construction as well as an ongoing burden to ratepayers for ongoing maintenance. These hard structures will kill the beach (as can be seen in front of the new sea wall) and most likely adversely affect the surfing breaks.

Where to from here?
What can you do?
Step 1
- The first round of DCC public consultation Dec 07 – Feb 08: The public will be encouraged to comment on the proposed scope and content of the information needed to draft the long-term plan. ie: Feedback on proposed data collection & how we would like the beach to look (natural or engineered) and desired amenity value.
I will update the blog when these public submission forms come out in the next few weeks.

If you would like a comprehensive written and pictorial history of the Beach emergency since May 2007 on this blog, please click here
Dune Erosion

Below is a one minute video of photographs of the severe progression of erosion at Ocean Beach from a series of South East Storms July to September 2007