Unmanaged Coastal Retreat in Kapiti

The steady erosion of Queen Elizabeth Park

Story  and photos by Roger and Pam Childs

The concept of managed coastal retreat has been debated by the Kapiti Coast District Council (KCDC), over many years.

At one point when it was included in the District Plan, it was vigorously opposed by many coastal property owners.

Some residents are concerned that the present council may be contemplating a revival of the “policy”.

Meanwhile to the south of the district, a process of unmanaged coastal retreat is rapidly unfolding.

Natural processes cutting back the dunes

The end of the wall at Raumati South on the far left and the park dunes on the right

50 years ago the fore-dunes of Queen Elizabeth Park stretched out as far as the present Raumati seawall. A friend remembers going through the sand dunes to get to the beach in Raumati South back in the 1950s.

Since then tides and winds have cut them back by over 30 metres.

Two coastal tracks have been abandoned and parts of the current path are being undermined.

A doomed part of the present coastal track south of Raumati South

The building of the seawall hasn’t helped. In a very short- sighted move, KCDC build the wall past the last beach front house in Raumati South and there it stopped. Not surprisingly, the sea just went round the back and scoured out a large area of unprotected dune.

Subsequently, the wall was curved round towards the park, but the damage was done. The sea now regularly dumps logs and assorted timber debris through to the coastal path from Raumati South.

Recent storms have wreaked havoc

South from the wall the consequences of recent storms are plain to see: sand banks being cut away, plant roots exposed and clumps of vegetation lying on the beach.

Dunes undermined at Paekakariki

Meanwhile at Paekakariki, there has been damage to the sea wall, and erosion of the dunes on the south edge of Queen Elizabeth Park.

The Park road north of Paekakariki under threat

Some of the beach access points have been washed away, vegetation has been undermined and, in one place, the road through the park in danger of slipping away.

The whole process of coastal erosion is a natural one, but has been exacerbated by human interference.

Housing should never have been allowed on the fore dunes for north Paraparaumu Beach to Paekakariki.

The seawall and other attempts at beach front property protection are holding back the ravages of the sea and wind in some places,  but will remain under threat.