For two years, citizens living in Haumoana/Te Awanga – the Cape Coast – have been fighting for Councils to intervene to protect the coastline. Readers might recall an impressive display of support from the community, when $50,000 was raised at an event last October to help finance their cause.

As spokesman Keith Newman reports below, WOW has been quietly busy since then, helping to sheperd several engineering and economic studies looking at the two available options – ‘managed retreat’ and installation of a series of groyns to curb erosion.

In a nutshell, WOW’s position is that protecting ratepayers and public amenities from breaches of the coastline should be seen as the joint responsibility of local authorities. Providing stop banks to prevent rivers overflowing and flooding of horticulture and farm land is a fundamental responsibility; as WOW sees it, protecting the coast should progress with the same justification and urgency.

The clock is running out on the decision process. The analytical work is virtually completed, and will soon be on public display, where it can be further vetted, put to ratepayer consideration, and ultimately inform the course of action taken by the Hastings and Regional Councils, who must decide once and for all whether they are ‘friend or foe’ with respect to an engineering solution.

Here is Keith’s update …

Critical time for Cape Coast
By Keith Newman, WOW Spokesman

WOW remains hopeful that common sense and the pioneering spirit that enabled Hawke’s Bay to rise from the dust of the 1931 earthquake will prevail and our local authorities will rise to the challenge to save the Cape Coast before it is too late.

WOW believes the only logical way forward for the Cape Coast erosion problem is for the joint councils to apply to the Environment Court supporting the construction of a robust, cost effective, well engineered groyne field.

For nearly eight months WOW Inc’s efforts to achieve coastal protection have been under the eagle eye of four ‘peer reviewers’ tasked with determining whether our professionally structured plan is likely to pass resource consent.

Three of these reviews will inform independent consultant and planner Dave Serjeant of Merestone Ltd, whose report to the joint councils will help determine their preferred course of action.

If we go direct to the Environment Court , Hastings District Council and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council are freed from any regulatory role and can show leadership in ensuring protection happens in the most efficient way.

Retreat rejected

The Cape Coast does not want to become the New Zealand test case for managed retreat, which can only leave social, economic and physical chaos in its wake. Doing nothing also invites disaster.

Disasters have costly consequences, as recent events have clearly shown, and failure to protect, prevent or plan for situations like those facing the Cape Coast raises serious questions.

While WOW’s grand plan, put to the joint councils two years ago, has been refined and adjusted to align with consent requirements, much still hangs in the balance, including who pays for the resource consent application and whether a city-wide rate is appropriate.

If the Sergeant Report is positive, it’s then up to our local authorities to drive it forward. Prior to the last election, Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule looked like he might champion the cause.

He’s seen the business case and, unless the peer review suggests otherwise, we remain hopeful he and his Councillors will follow through. If HBRC gets on board a great sigh of relief will run through the Cape Coast and hopefully wider Hawke’s Bay.

We’ve been reminded by a number of influential people and civic leaders that WOW’s protection plan with its strong community support would be considered a welcome gift by most councils around the country.

Reviewer reviewed

While the preliminary reviews dealing with the engineering of the groynes and shingle movement seem to have found common ground with WOW’s own findings, the cost-benefit reviewer – looking at groynes vs managed retreat – clearly did not understand the brief.

Fortunately WOW discovered this in time and was forced to invest in its own report to challenge incomplete and shallow findings that could have adversely impacted two years of planning and research. Hopefully that potential crisis has now been averted.

Since well before our status as a charitable incorporated society was confirmed, WOW has attended joint council meetings, held public meetings at both the Te Awanga and Haumoana halls and sent newsletters to to update and inform every household in the community.

The WOW technical team in particular has spent hundreds of hours working with our coastal engineer and Hastings District Council executives to ensure our plan is compliant.

Our beaches are a regional asset enjoyed and used by all. With a clear business case, the National Cycle Trail running along at-risk parts of the Cape Coast, and a visionary Cape Coast Community Group (CCCG) plan, the case for sharing the cost of protection across Hawke’s Bay seems more watertight than ever.

Cape Coast erosion is a Hawke’s Bay issue and requires all local authorities to work together to ensure it is resolved. Further delays because councils refuse to co-operate, ignoring the problem altogether, or passing the buck in a ‘user pays’ funding approach are not acceptable.


Have at this one folks … what do you think?

Should nature simply be allowed to take its course? If so, however, how is the Cape Coast situation different from the controversial ‘beach replenishment’ that Napier City Council is undertaking, with Regional Council support, at Westshore? Or, if an engineering solution appears environmentally viable, should ratepayers of the region get behind (and that includes largely pay for) protection and enhancement of this key coastline — which now includes a new central government-funded cycle trail — as a major public amenity?

Join the Conversation


  1. The obvious difference from Westshore beach replenishment is that Westshore beach erosion is at least partly caused by the Port of Napier, which through man-made groynes and regular dredging blocks the natural drift of shingle, sand and mud from south to north.

    The Port is owned by the Regional Council and hugely benefits the people of both Napier City and the wider region. So a modest ongoing expenditure by the two councils, to ensure the northwards passage of sand and shingle by truck, is both morally and economically justifiable.

    Major capital works are another matter. The councils have been right to resist that idea – until recently anyway.

    The beach erosion north of Clifton is a natural phenomenon. It will only get worse as sea levels rise. The only protection option identified would destroy the natural character of the coastline, not restore it. And what precisely is the moral and economic case for the councils to pay anything?

    Every new house built along this vulnerable low-lying stretch of coastline will be another family ruined when the next tsunami strikes.

  2. If the next tsunami does indeed have any significiant impact on the coast of Haumoana, te Awanga and Clifton then Napier will already be underwater. We're not planning for tsunami protection just for common sense hard engineering protection to restore some of the shingle back on the beaches here that has been harvested from our rivers and further north for decades to build both Napier and Hastings and indeed the Ports. let the coast unravel further and its not just a handful of homes at risk but the road, community, vineyards and farmland

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