New Zealand: Surfers Concerned About Whangamata Bar Dredging

Surfers Concerned About Whangamata Bar Dredging

The Whangamata Bar Association (WBA) was formed after a meeting in May 2012 of 40 plus local surfers concerned about degrading wave quality at the Whangamata Bar.

After independently monitoring The Bar under the guidance of surveyors and coastal process scientists, local members of Surfbreak Protection Society and WBA believe there is a correlation between the deterioration of the waves and the periodic dredging of the access channel brought about by the opening of the Whangamata Marina in 2009. The WRC and the Whangamata Marina Society think differently and say there is no evidence to support the surfers claims.

In an effort to validate their concerns, in June 2012 SPS released a report that along with a set of legal remedies prescribed by the Environmental Defence Society, provided the impetus for the Waikato Regional Council to undertake a review of the maintenance dredging consents.

The review was conducted in late 2012 and exposed breaches of the consent and the regional coastal plan by the Marina Society but SPS maintain it was not conducted properly because the WRC refused to incorporate wave quality monitoring as part of the scope of the review and the official results of the review have never been released.

Surfers have noticed a correlation between previous dredging events and the wave losing its barrel, and going fat, as a hole forms in the Bar. The wave then slowly restores itself (dependant on easterly swells) until the next dredging event.

The WBA wants the WRC to make the results of the review public and honour the intent of the Crown’s Whangamata marina consent conditions by agreeing to monitor the quality of waves on The Bar. Like the WBA Paul Shanks, surfer and President of SPS says he’s never given up the battle to protect his local break and he too is waiting for the official review of the marina dredging consents to be released.

Shanks believes The WRC and The Whangamata Marina Society have a legal and ethical obligation to all New Zealanders to upgrade The Bar monitoring program and meet the Marina consent conditions which state they must “retain appropriately qualified and experienced persons to ascertain if the dredging and construction has any long term effects on The Bar

WBA spokesperson Michael Gunson agrees and says it is not only surfers who are calling for action. “For some years now Dr Shaw Mead of eCoast Ltd, has been advising the Surfbreak Protection Society that a 3D Camera is required at The Bar to monitor observed changes to surfing wave characteristics, and he’s not alone.

His contemporaries, Dr Jim Dahm (previously engaged by the Marina society) Dr Terry Hume (a senior scientist in sand and beach processes at NIWA) and Dr Vernon Pickett ( of WRC who has previously worked alongside eCoast) have all stated that a camera monitoring system is needed at the Whangamata Bar. They are the appropriately qualified and experienced persons and they’re not being listened to either” he says..

Both the WBA and SPS believe the Council is in breach of their responsibilities under the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement and as members of the Hauraki Gulf Forum, whose guidelines set out “the need to identify natural and physical resources of recreational importance and methods to protect them, including surf breaks, from activities such as dredging” The Environmental Defence Society (EDS) also support the surfers concerns and have provided legal advice to SPS with regards to the WRC and Marina Societies obligations under the terms of the consent conditions.

Ross Stewart, president of the Marina Society remains adamant that dredging isn’t affecting the bar. “It’s an important asset for the town, no question about that. But sure as hell what we’re doing isn’t affecting it.” he says.

However Shanks and his supporters say this is incorrect and want to know why the WRC and the Marina Society are blocking their proposed monitoring initiative if they are so confident dredging is causing no harm. “For years we’ve been trying to work in partnership with both of them so we can establish the facts and get past the competing claims and counter-claims, but they refuse to collaborate” he says. “Now we’ve been forced to take a different approach

WBA say the issue is not only about wave quality for surfers but also the Marina Societies refusal to honour consent conditions and WRC’s refusal to hold them to account. “Citizen funded authorities should be acting in the best interests of all New Zealanders and working to preserve our significant national treasures” says Gunson. “Until the WRC establish conclusively what the real impact of dredging on the Whangamata Bar is we’re not going away

The Whangamata Bar Association is launching a public awareness campaign on social change platform to help support WBA and SPS, and bring some openness, transparency, and accountability to the situation.


Source: Surfersvillage Global Surf News, March 1, 2013