Ōrewa Beach was hammered from all directions by what could be described as “a perfect storm” last month.
A combination of high tides, a 2-3m swell, strong winds and exceptionally heavy rainfall lashed the beach with the runoff from rainwater undercutting concrete picnic tables on the reserve.
Sand that had been transferred from the southern end of the beach as a buffer did its job – it was eroded, exposing tree roots and making access onto the beach difficult.
Auckland Council brought in a digger to build up sand in front of the reserve again to improve access and expects a major sand transfer from the southern end of the beach next month to sort out the rest (see next page).
After the storm, Council staff updated Hibiscus and Bays Local Board members about coastal protection work for Ōrewa. Work has been going on behind the scenes for some time regarding what could happen on the beachfront of Ōrewa Reserve.
Council’s Resilient Land and Coasts general manager, Paul Klinac, told members at a workshop that coastal management on Ōrewa Beach is “a balancing act”, with different responses needed for different parts of the shore.
“Lots of people think because of the process we’ve already been through for the other seawall [Kohu St-Marine View, see chart next page], building another would be relatively easy, but there are real challenges,” Klinac said.
Council’s research on how Ōrewa Reserve is used made it clear that the beach is ‘the star of the show’, and the key reason people visit the reserve. With that in mind, the effects on dry high tide beach of any seawall, over time, must be factored in. Pohutukawa and Norfolk pines on the edge of the reserve are also an issue.
“It’s very complex. A seawall is not the only way to go – naturalisation, and staged realignment over time is our line of thinking at the moment. The width of the reserve gives us more options [than at Kohu St-Marine View]. A wall might stop sand blowing around, but planting can also provide a buffer,” Klinac told members.
He emphasised that any decisions on shoreline protection for Ōrewa Reserve are a long way off, but the process is underway. Whatever is done will be influenced by the community, mana whenua and the science, Klinac said.
The aim is to mitigate the effects of climate change and sea level rise, while providing the public with access to the things they value about the reserve. It will bring together a number of reports, scientific data and historical evidence, and include public consultation.
One relevant document is the Ōrewa Reserve Service Assessment report, funded by the Hibiscus and Bays Local Board last year (HM August 2, 2021). It analysed how the public use the reserve. The local board used the findings as a guide when it set priorities for the reserve’s long term management – these include retaining play options for children and the basketball/beach volleyball courts.
Klinac described Council’s current management approach on Ōrewa Beach – mainly sand transfer – as “quite effective” . This will continue once the Kohu-Marine View seawall is built and Klinac said it is too early to say whether the eventual protection measures for Ōrewa Reserve could see the end of it.
“It’s good to note that not all the buffer sand was removed by the storm,” he said. “Despite the last 20 years of coastal processes, the reserve and trees are still there. However, the current response, while effective, could change moving forward. It’s an interim response while we get our heads around climate change.”
It is two years since the last full sand transfer. Following the recent storm, around 8000-10,000 cubic metres of sand will be moved north as a buffer – this is scheduled to take place next month.