• Keith Newman

Cape Coast protection (part2) - Cape View Corner casualties

The shape of Cape Coast shifted due to the 1931 quake and the extraction of hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of shingle from Awatoto over many years didn’t help.


A groyne built at the Tukituki River mouth in 1999, one of three originally planned, restored 800 metres of beach, and along with flood banks beside the river, protected the township of Haumoana from overtop[ping and flooding.


When Awatoto extraction ended in 2017 the coast moved into recovery phase with current protection; the Cape View Corner and Clifton seawalls and a permit to build up the crest at vulnerable points, providing another layer of certainty for residents and the environment.


Along Haumoana’s Cape View Corner, opposite 4Square, Cape View Takeaways and Gannets Bar, the sea is gradually scouring out an empty shingled area beside the wreckage of a former holiday home that precariously hugs the roadside.


The battered and vandalized shell at 11 Clifton Rd was possibly built in the late 1930s by a Mr Hingston and then acquired by a partnership of John Emmerson, the founder of Emmerson’s Transport, and his friend Athol Wright in the early 1950s.


When Athol Wright passed away Emmerson bought the property outright. Ian, his brother Peter and their Dad John Emmerson started Emmerson Transport in 1977 with a couple of trucks. Today there are around 86 line-haul units and 120 staff.


Ian recalls from about the age of seven years spending several days a year at the bach fishing and swimming. At that time there was “about 30 metres of beach out from where it is today and at times it was quite a sandy beach”.

It wasn’t for the feint hearted. “There were always reasonable breakers there and quite short, not from a long way out. It changed quite often and you wouldn’t try to launch a boat there,” he says.


“It’s amazing how many people used to head out there the campgrounds at Te Awanga and Clifton used to bulge from Late December to the end of January,” says Ian, one of more than dozen property owners waiting to hear whether consenting is proved for a single wall in front of their properties.


The property remained a rental until about 2016 when it became unstable and over the next years was subject to severe vandalism while awaiting a council decision on what might happen to the land and title.


Holiday hopes undermined


Around 2008 the high hopes of an Auckland couple, architect and musician Edwin Derricutt and his wife Debbie, were dashed when an extreme tidal swell swept through the cottage and grounds they recently renovated.


Council restrictions prevented him from doing anything about the damage at 9 Clifton Rd as the sea kept eating away at the property, often littering the beach with split and torn blue timber.


During another storm tugged at the front of the property it became irreparable and soon vandals further damaged the interior and fittings. He eventually cut the house in half and secured the rest of the home while awaiting some decision on how his investment might be protected.


After several years he was given a ‘notice to fix’ by Hastings District Council. The irony was that he would have to receive a consent to do any fixing. The only real option was to remove it which also required a consent.


In the end he was given the option to do the work or Hastings Council would remove it for him and charge him for the effort. He bought in an excavator and cleared the property in 2016.

It was a heartbreaking end to an unrealised dream but like the others along the strip of coastal homes, he’s delighted at protection plans, even if they simply allow him to reclaim the bare shingle bay where their house once stood to park a caravan.

Previous owners of the house included Marie and Max Andrews who had been regulars at Burdens Te Awanga Motor Camp for around 18-years. They had towed their caravan from Havelock North and to join about six other families of relative and friends.


Max Andrews, a mechanic, partner and parts manager with Bay Tractors, particularly liked the fishing. Marie was determined to live along the Cape Coast and saw the little bach at 9 Clifton Rd as a starting point.


They acquired it for about $17,000 from the Rae family, whose parents had lived there for many years. Arthur Rae, who worked at Birdseye has been killed in an accident while crossing the road a number of years previously, and his wife had gone into a nursing home.

“My husband Max said, ‘you realise it’s not going to be permanent and that if we get a big sea its going to end up in the water?’ We had to be prepared to not worry and ready to pack up and go at any time,” said Marie.

When the big seas did come she had ways of coping. “I used to take a gin at nighttime and put earplugs in when it got really rough.”


The weatherboard house was “fairly rough”, the salt air had rusted everything external and all nails were poking through the walls.


“We put a fibrolite coating on the outside, redid the roof, put in good windows created a large garden in the front facing the road and built up the bank creating a three metre area with a picnic table and chairs with a gradual slope to the beach.”


To protect the property the couple, with help from friends put in a strong wooden and corrugated iron fence then in front of that iron rails loaded up with old tyres. “It was marvellous, and it worked well but if we did have a big sea it would push shingle over so we had to maintain it all the time.”

9 Clifton Road, Haumoana, with corrugated iron fence sea defence
9 Clifton Road with corrugated iron fence sea defence

Marie says the sea did get very close at times. “Sometimes you couldn’t open the door because of the shingle that piled up.”

Max Andrews was on a number of local committees battling for coastal protection. “I gave up going to those meetings as it became too depressing. I really think since they stopped taking shingle from Awatoto it’s building up again.”


The Andrews sold after about four years. “The people who came after us let the sea get in. Unless you immediately patch whatever gap there is, it’s the beginning of the end. The next time you get a big sea it sucks the shingle out further.”


Marie, aged 87-years, when interviewed, said she and her husband moved on to a half acre property along Beach Rd in 1987. “My husband needed more space for tractors and boats.


“It was always my ambition to have a house on the other side of the road where we could retire.” Her husband Max died about three years later.


Wall of uncertainty


Mark Lawrence, and his then partner Tracey Oliver and their children first moved into 23 Clifton Rd in December 2007 living with a double threat; the impact of high seas crashing into their home and councils requesting the removal of a protective wall.


After the top layer of a concrete block wall had, toppled onto the beach during violent seas, Mr Lawrence, a practical person with handyman skills, began over an eight-month period replacing the one tonne concrete blocks protecting his family home.


Because the house was in a ‘coastal hazard zone’ the work required resource consent, although Mr Lawrence laboured under the belief that he was simply replacing an existing structure. He continued through two storm events that would otherwise have destroyed his home.


In the process he even removed the old blocks and much accumulated rubble including steel wire sticking out on the beach which had accumulated over many years.


He employed a planner and a coastal engineer in 2009 to ensuring the work was done correctly, confident he could bring it up to code. Even though the council, in its ‘notice to fix’, failed to tell him specifically what needed fixing, continuing to insist he remove the wall entirely while these matters were considered.

Mark Lawrence next to concrete block seawall, 23 Clifton Road, Haumoana
Mark Lawrence

He told the Hastings Mail his wall was the only thing stopping his house from collapsing into the sea. “There’s no way it’s going because if it goes it will be the end of our house.”

When he didn’t comply with a 30-day request to remove the wall he was taken to Hastings District Court on 25 January 2010 court and fined $3000 plus costs for carrying out work without a building consent.

After the case had been heard Mr Lawrence’s applauded the judges statement that this case should never have come to court and its use of the Building Act was overkill.

The stress of battling the council and being unable to provide the protection needed to keep his family safe resulted in a marriage break-up with Mr Lawrence eventually selling two adjacent homes he had been restoring.


These and others in the at-risk area are now fully restored and in the hands of new owners.


New approaches to coastal protection, including further groynes, shingle bunds and interlocking block walls, are being considered.


The big questions that have involved decades of robust discussion relate to mitigating potential downstream impacts from manmade structures and who pays.


Walking on Water (WOW) Inc, a community group formed in 2009 has been a strong advocate for coastal protection, working with successive councils and even employing its own coastal engineer to find affordable and practical solutions.


WOW was formed because initial 2009 proposals for 13 groynes along the coast and a targeted rate on coastal residents were going to be unaffordable. It also opposed plans for managed retreat that were being put forward at the time.


WOW continued to look for more flexible solutions until it put its advocacy efforts for the wider coast on hold pending the outcome of the Tangoio to Clifton Coastal Hazards Strategy, which after seven year is ongoing.


The volunteer group representing the Cape Coast continues to monitor that process and more recently shifted its energy to ensure essential assets including the access road at Cape View Corner were protected.


It continued to lobby and present in annual plans to ensure some action was taken until Hastings District Council set aside funding to create the limestone wall that took shape during the two months to July 2021.


WOW is currently working with property and home owners of the H18 on Clifton Rd who are applying for a single consent for an interlocking wall in front of their properties from Cape View corner south of the Clifton Reserve freedom camping area.


Sources:

Keith Newman interview with Marie Andrews and Ian Emmerson

Charges threaten wall plan, Lawrence Gullery, HB Today, 26 Nov 2009

Father fights seawall order, Janielle Kirkland, HB Today, 23 July, 2009

Family battle councils and sea, Hastings Mail, 29-07-2009

Couple lose seawall case but pledge to battle on, HB Today, 26 Jan 2010


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