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Saving the beach.

By Chuck Edwards.

Mother Nature over which we have so little control, is a powerful influence in our world. She has been this way forever.

Sometimes she does damage and creates havoc and sometimes she needs our help. Such is the situation at Simpsons Beach (Wharekaho).

Her raging storms from the North are eroding and destroying the once beautiful beach. This beach is very special.

On King's birthday weekend my wife and I, joined by reported numbers of 70 or so, came to Wharekaho Beach to help restore property frontages that had been eroded by as much as ten metres by Cyclone Gabrielle.

The method of recovery has been to push sand with a machine from the mid tide zone up to the dunes (high tide zone) creating a new dune. Selected dune grasses have been planted on the dunes, out of reach of the high tide. Thousands of these have been planted all over the Coromandel Peninsula. On Simpsons Beach, previous plantings have been successful and looked so good, but the weather in the last few months destroyed the positive work to the point that very few plants remain.

I believe the process of pushing sand, which is firmly set in the mid tide zone, allows wave action of storms to further erode this once firm surface and undermines the dunes as well as lowering the beach level it has created. In other words, this activity is encouraging further sand removal.

And how do we know this? When we were young, even when we were not so young, building sandcastles on the beach and when attempting to defend sand from the incoming tide, it was futile to dig a trench in front of your castle because that just sped up the castle's destruction. It was however helpful to place a log or a stick fence between the castle and the incoming sea. This provided much better protection.

If we really need to provide sand to establish or repair dunes, that sand should come from the sand bars being created by the sea out off Buffalo Beach.

And why should we need to do this? I believe we really need to create a solid immovable wall of rock along the property frontages. Over the top of this rock we then put a layer of local clay (rotoehu ash) Then lay a good layer of sand into which we plant our dune grasses.

There are many good reasons. Firstly, if we allow the seas to attack the frontages that exist at the moment (following Gabrielle), the sea is going to wash all sorts of rubbish and debris out into the sea with its erosive action. This material will end up stifling the marine communities that exist on the reefs and coastline from Davis to Devils Points. We have already seen this at Simpsons Beach.

Secondly, this beach has historic value in that in 1769 Captain Cook walked these sands with Tua Waka of Ngati Hei. Further, a Pohutukawa tree, believed to be at least 400 years old, on the seaward side of Oneputu Reserve, is being undermined by invading sea. Surely this tree is worthy of protection, which sand will not provide. Thirdly, we need to ensure that breeding areas for seabirds and small animals are provided and protected. And certainly, proud owners who have beach front properties at Wharekaho will watch over and nurture these areas and ensure that the margin between the sea and land is attractive.

And finally, I would urge controlling authorities to get their act together if they are really serious about protecting this iconic Mercury Bay beach permanently.

Caption: This photo was taken early March 2023 as part of a discussion meeting of Wharekaho

residents with Mayor Len Salt.


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