As readers know, a controversy has been simmering over the future of the Clifton, Te Awanga, Haumoana coast. When heavy seas pound the shore (like, as I write), we’re treated to scenes of major destruction … homes endangered, roading lost and dangerous debris littering the beaches.

One’s first reaction – especially if not a resident of the area – might be one of sympathy, tempered by a sense that “They should have known better.” And when the issue of what to do about it arises, perhaps the ratepayer’s gut reaction is … “It’s not up to the rest of us to bail them out.”

Another response might be, “Engineering can’t solve the problem … global warming with its predicted sea level rise and more intense weather events will inevitably win the day … that coast is toast!”

When the issue first arose, neither the Hastings nor Regional Councils were keen to step in with a rescue plan … presumably reflecting some of the attitudes just expressed, and sheltered politically by DoC’s “Let nature take its course” stance.

However, HDC, closer to the political pressure of an aroused coast constituency, and not ultimately in a regulatory role (as the Regional Council might be) was cooperative enough to keep the ball in play … at least through the 2010 election window.

“Cape Coast” residents seized the opportunity, proposing a plan that – they insist – provides an effective engineering solution to the erosion threat at little or no incremental cost to Hastings ratepayers. Indeed, a solution they say would transform the “Cape Coast” into a vibrant recreational and scenic asset for locals and tourists alike.

And yesterday’s announcement by the Regional Council and Venture Hawke’s Bay that their bid for Government funding for the ‘Landscape Trail’ through the scenic Tukituki Valley south of Hastings has been successful would seem to lend some credence to the coastal community’s aspirations. Funding of $1.89 million for the Landscape cycle trail — some of which passes along the endangered “Cape Coast” — has been approved by the Minister for Tourism.

For the current BayBuzz Digest, the coast’s advocacy group, Walking on Water (WOW), provided this timely article making the case for restoration … Last Chance: Cape Coast Rescue Plan.

What do you think?

Tom Belford

Join the Conversation


  1. The first house foundatons I worked on in NZ after arriving in 1973 were 2 at Te Awanga

    granted approval by the former County Council

    I was amazed these and those already there on the unstable gravel barrier called Crown beaches in Europe ever got approvals with no sea wall defences and stated then to County

    inspectors they would end up in the sea.

    I learnt at that time many along the shore line from Clifton to Tongoio had never had building consents from the County Council and started as holiday bachs and were added to without approvals.

    I was informed last year by HDC that is still the situation in Te Awanga and Haumoana

    Some were removed from Tongoio a few years ago and 6 or 7 at Bay View were set alight in a controlled burn by the fire brigade in 1994

    Others were pulled down at Bay View after 1989 almagamation that were on surveyed sections. New houses were built and subdivisions granted.

    Several were over the old County dump at Bay View and sank with undisclosed payouts.

    Im my view none from Clifton to Tongoio should have got a consent without engineered sea walls in place as overseas.

    It has cost ratepayers undisclosed mega bucks and will continue doing so until the situation is faced up to and resolved by our elected leaders.

    I favour a retreat and acceptance of liability compensation for approved building owners.

    That is what insurance payed by ratepayers is for who are HDC not HBRC liability.

    Rates are not to prosecute ratepayers who have tried to protect a property that should not have been approved.

    What I would like to know is how can Councils collect rates for unconsented buildings?

  2. How short sighted could the Regional Council be? To spend 1.8 million on a cycle pathway to promote tourism to the Cape Coast region without stabilizing the assets!

    It appears the HDC is comfortable with taxing ratepayers $12.00 per annum for fresh air at East Clive but is still reluctant to charge less than a cup of coffee per year to protect the Hawkes Bay regions main recreational playground.

  3. It would be a shame to lose such a fantastic Landscape Coast but in this financial time is this priority ???

    Very hard ….for many !!!!!

  4. Sandy – the WOW group has a proposal that funds a series of protective groynes with little or maybe no cost to the ratepayer. If you read their proposal it seems to be the obvious solution. I agree, it would be more than a shame to lose this iconic landscape.

  5. The WOW proposal makes perfect sense with mininal costs to the ratepayers. The loss to the whole country of the area of Cape Coast would be unbelievably short sighted. The Regional Council need to face up to the responsibility and work for the coastal community and indeed the whole of the HB constituent.

  6. On inquiry many property owners at Te Awanga and Haumoana are not aware of a watershed court case a decade and a half ago.

    The plaintiff was an Invercargill resident and defendant Invercargill City. The case was on liability for a house foundation that had sunk and fractured the house structure that was approved 17 years previously.

    It was contested to Privy Council under Hamlin vs Invercargill City and is online.

    Mr Hamlin won and rewrote NZ liability law.

    The ruling was Quote-

    "A Territorial Authority is responsible for that which its officers and inspectors pass or approve."

  7. Reading the scripts on Hawke Bay coastal erosion it would seem that a few comments are needed.

    Firstly, tectonic plate movements in this region, as everywhere, are slow but continuous; additionally, both weather and tidal patterns are dynamic, and continuously so.

    It is sobering to remember that in 1952 a combination of persistent gales over the North Seas, coupled with tidal conditions, resulted in an abnormally high tide condition that lasted for some fortyeight hours during which the tide did not 'go out', breaching seawall defences in S.E. England and similarly along the coast of Holland, hundreds of people drowned in their homes as thousands of hectares of low-lying, coastal land went under sea-water.

    Similarly sobering, the great force of storm-driven waves has been shown to shift concrete harbour structures weighting 200 tonnes or more while at Coff's Harbour in northern N.S.W. one can see concrete blocks of 12 tonnes that were picked up by waves and tossed some 30 metres, right over the bund and into the marina area.

    Any amount of concrete along Hawke Bay coasts, groynes etc., will ultimately fail to ensure future protection of properties on, or behind, the beach tops, for tectonic plate movements and combined weather and tidal conditions will eventually determine the future shape of the Hawke Bay coastline. In fact, the sea may one day sweep across what is currently Hawke's Bay Airport , to the Poraiti hills, or even across the Heretaunga Plains, as it has done in the past and we would be powerless to prevent it doing so.

    He who builds his house on sand either has great faith or takes a gamble on its future, he certainly lacks in wisdom.

    David Appleton

  8. Have to agree with David. Moreover since most if not all the immediately endangered houses have been purchased (by present owners) in the last 10 or so years, exactly what were these people thinking? Clearly not about climate change! This fact alone makes me resistant to any community-based effort to assist. Nor is any form of hard engineering on an open ocean beach a solution, regardless of who foots the cost; it will last a decade or so at most, then collapse and make the beach dangerously unuseable. Relocation is the only option – and the sooner residents start spending money to do that instead of trying to shore up what cannot be kept, the better for everyone.

  9. Agree with David.

    The risks and damage are not just those we have seen over the last couple of years from high tides and the usual easterly. The greater and more relevant risks to coastal land are from the less frequent but larger events, whether caused by earthquake or extreme weather. This is probably why the Regional Council engineers think a more expensive and intensive groyne system is required. But as David says even this greater engineering build still has the risk of failure from the more serious events that he refers to.

    Add to this the revised forecasts of the future mean of sea level rise, previously assumed to be .5 of a metre, but now forecast as a mean sea level rise of 1.5 metres, and even higher levels are possible.

    The revised higher sea levels are a result of allowing for the impacts of glacier and ice sheet melting which had previously been excluded from the calculations. These forecast higher ocean levels have to be combined with forecasts of more extreme storm events than we have had in the past. And we do live with an earthquake fault line off the coast.

  10. With respect Bruce hard engineering would not collapse but to get it to the standard to not do so and also meet eathquake standards would cost many times the $12M being quoted by those who wish others to pay for not having done their homework before purchasing.

    Consents should not have been granted so in my opinion there is a liability factor both ways.

    Real Estate Agents may also not be without

    some level of responsibility to purchasers

    I agree unpaletable as it may be to owners relocation is the best practicle and cost effective option by a country mile.

    D.Williams- Structural Brickwork & Drainage UK

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