25 Jul 2016

East Beach residents fear beach homes will wash away

7:19 pm on 25 July 2016

A Taranaki beach settlement is in clean-up mode again after storm surges washed rotting animal carcasses onto the beach and tossed huge logs through fences.

David Zimmerman of East Beach wants a seawall built to keep the local homes from being washed away.

David Zimmerman of East Beach wants a seawall built to keep the local homes from being washed away. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

East Beach residents in Waitara say they feel abandoned by the local authorities and fear for their properties.

David Zimmerman's home is one of those most exposed to the elements at the mouth of the Waitara River.

He said he could hear logs crashing about at high tide last night and was worried he and his partner would have evacuate his rented bach.

"We had it very wild and woolly, very wild and woolly.

"Cindy and I were giving each other sideways glances, you know, because we'd hear this big roaring, the wind, just the wind and rain, thunder and lightning.

Massive 3.5m tides washed up animal carcasses and tossed huge logs up beside East Beach residents' properties.

Massive 3.5m tides washed up animal carcasses and tossed huge logs up beside East Beach residents' properties. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"And you could hear the sea and it sounded like it was just going to come in through the front door."

At 2pm today the tide tossed a huge log through the fence Mr Zimmerman had built since last month's flood.

He said he'd had enough and wanted help urgently or it would be too late.

"Basically we're going to get washed away. We need protection from the sea and unfortunately that's what it looks like - that is what is going to happen to us down here if we don't get some form of protection and a big rock wall out the front and all along the beachline to protect all the whānau living here."

At high tide today a huge log smashed through the fence David Zimmerman had built since the last storm surge.

At high tide today a huge log smashed through the fence David Zimmerman had built since the last storm surge. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Waitara community board member Trevor Dodunski said the New Plymouth District Council was wiping its hands of the problem and was referring residents to the regional council.

He said the local authorities were losing sight of who they represented.

"When it comes to walkways and stuff like that we can fix it pretty much straight away and where are we going with this policy of not helping out residents.

"They are the ratepayers of our community and if we don't get out and get off our butts and start looking after them, we aren't going to have any left."

Waitara community board member Trevor Dodunski, at East Beach.

Waitara community board member Trevor Dodunski says the local authorities are putting parks and walkways before people. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Mr Dodunski said unless a seawall was built the homes would eventually be swept into the ocean.

"They need to put a wall of boulders out in a straight line from the surf club. Right through, and then backfill it, and that way the wall will take the sting out of the waves.

"If you let the waves run they will take this away inside the next 10 years, the whole lot, and they'll be in those houses in the back there."

The New Plymouth District Council's policy was to only protect strategic and significant assets from erosion.

Trevor Dodunski and David Zimmerman survey the latest damage at East Beach, Waitara.

Trevor Dodunski and David Zimmerman survey the latest damage at East Beach, Waitara. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The East Beach properties were also on Māori freehold land and not considered a public asset.

Group manager strategy Liam Hodgetts said expert advice on whether a council-built half tide wall built in 2014 was contributing to the problem had been inconclusive.

"The findings are really indicating we need to do more monitoring and we've got to put in a monitoring regime that is able graph all the data on a regular basis that can be put into a monitoring program where a consultant can give us some advice."

Mr Hodgetts said the council built the half-tide wall and it would not walk away from its responsibilities, but he was not able to say how long any monitoring period would need to be or when it might start.

He said in the meantime council was keeping in regular touch with the Rohotu Block trustees and its residents about their concerns.

"Which is of course is that this storm event and subsequent storm events in the future will continue to erode their beach or not.

Driftwood and more was washed up by the storm, and there are concerns the erosion will continue.

Driftwood and more was washed up by the storm, and there are concerns the erosion will continue. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

"What we've been saying all along is that it is a high-dynamic environment and that erosion occurs up and down the Taranaki coast and particularly in the north."

Taranaki Regional Council director of resource management Fred McLay said it was not the council's function in law to construct works to avoid or mitigate the effects of coastal erosion.

Mr McLay said its role was to issue consents for erosion protection works, but no application had been made for the land in question.

Meanwhile, with an irony not lost on East Beach residents, the regional council was today placing boulders by stopbanks across the river associated with the $3 million Lower Waitara River flood protection scheme upgrade.

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