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Cape View protection (part 1) - Lost homes have history

The media will no longer be able to capture eye popping images of massive waves crashing into or over the houses at Haumoana’s Cape View Corner to illustrate climate change and sea-level rise. The last two most photographed structures in the row of homes once seen as the epitome of coastal destruction were removed during the creation of the long awaited coastal protection structure in June and July 2021.

Two baches for demolition at Cape View Corner, Haumoana
Two baches for demolition at Cape View Corner, Haumoana

After more than 50-years of lobbying by local residents, the intersection of Beach Rd, East Rd and Clifton Rd Cape now has a 130 metre limestone rock revetment wall in place. The $600,000 Cape View Corner project budgeted for in the Hastings District Plan now protects public assets including water pipes, power poles, a limestone cycle track and the access road to Haumoana, Te Awanga and Clifton. A secondary protection plan for a wall of interlocking blocks put forward by the owners of the remaining 18 at-risk homes is undergoing a consenting process before the Hastings District Council. The Cape View Corner revetment wall will get a visual makeover with landscaping and spaces set aside for picnickers as part of the Cape Coast Reserves Plan.

Cape View Corner, Clifton Road, Haumoana, Revetment Wall sea defence
Cape View Corner Revetment Wall

Both protection projects are being undertaken independently by Hastings and align with wider coastal protection proposals of the Strategy Group which will go to public consultation in 2022. Two properties to the south of the wall were casualties to unseasonably high seas and inundation in the past 15-years. A further two were removed in the 1970s to prevent further damage after a major storm undermined private protection measures. Both the corner and the neighbouring coastal homes are identified by the Clifton to Tangoio Coastal Hazards Strategy as one of the most vulnerable and at-risk places along the Hawke’s Bay coastline.

End of line for baches

The homes along the erosion prone strip which used to be known as the Haumoana Extension or the Haumoana 21 (H21, now 18) have a rich history, dating back to the formative years when the coastal communities drew thousands of people during the holiday season.

Some were so enamoured they built holiday baches or permanent residences and as many of the makeshift shacks were added to the area became a dormitory suburb of Hastings. In the 1940s there was a frequently used service track and a tennis court in front of the houses along Clifton Rd at Cape View Corner where there was 30 or more metres of gravel before the high tide mark.

King tides and high swells gradually clawed away at the land and properties, mainly baches that had been added to over time, until they were considered at risk by the early 1970s with a number of private sections now having their boundaries up to 15 metres out into the sea. Despite regular petitions and letters to the HB Catchment Board and County Council and later Hastings and HB Regional councils to help protect the properties nothing was done so locals mostly began creating their own defences against the encroaching sea.

In March 1972 locals, frustrated at the inaction, dug into their own pockets and 13 truckloads of clay were delivered and hundreds of man hours expended to build a bank in front of the most vulnerable homes to complement concrete and timber walls.

1974, a watershed year

Heavy swells pounded the shore in August 1973 halving the 4 metre clay buffer zone, including in front of a concrete wall erected by Linda and David Bawden, the son and daughter in law of Haumoana Ratepayers chairman Nelson Bawden. Nelson Bawden claimed at the time the shingle works at Awatoto was a cause of erosion. “Because the works were taking shingle at a rate of 30,000 yards a year, shingle on the beach tended to be moved or sucked toward the works...I’m certain the problem of erosion is man-made because of the shingle works and the changing of the Maraetotara River outlet.”

The Cape Coast was particularly hard hit in 1974 with up to eight events including flooding and inundation. The row of Norfolk Pines that lined the coastal edge in front of the Clifton Reserve free camping area were mostly toppled in the 1974 swells with the last of them falling into the sea in 2002 and 2005.

While most in the erosion zone were determined to stay, two of the areas most vigorous protection campaigners conceded and took up a council and government offer of an assisted managed retreat to safer ground.

In July 1974 the Bawdens moved their six-year-old two storey home from 5 Clifton Rd to a new section across the road. “I can’t afford to move but I’ll just have to grin and bear it,” said David Bawden. The move cost $16,000 including the section, the 70ft transporter, a new building permit, charges for connecting water, electricity, phone and renovations, which was half the current value of the house. The following year TAPA president and Civil Defence warden John Osborne took advantage of the same moving company and transporter to reposition his house at 1 Clifton Rd to a back section alongside the Bawdens. The promise of financial support for those agreeing to move came to nothing.

The empty spaces where those homes were removed reverted to the Department of Conservation (DoC) which through the consent process has also agreed to the new protection measures.

Homes replaced by seawall

To make way for the revetment wall and complimentary landscaping an iconic green weatherboard bach which had withstood storms and inundation for around 70-years and its near neighbour Sea Spray were recently removed.

Haumoana-based fine artist Nicola Forster took a series of photos of the twin baches on a single title at No.3 Clifton Rd to recreate on canvas because she saw “a certain beauty” in that rugged beachfront scene. She moved to the Cape Coast about 14-years ago and has family ties to the area. The week after she took photographs of the two baches, the sea went through the smaller one and it was eventually swept out to sea.

Twin Baches, 3 Clifton Road, Haumoana
Nicola Forster canvas

One had been a small dairy run by Mr and Mrs Watene in the 1950s. The family also had cabins across the road from the current Haumoana 4 Square.

For a time one of them was also a wine shop run by Michael, Christine and Faye McGuiness. The Worsnops owned it from the 1950s until the early 1960s.

Des and Beryl Joll took ownership in the early 1970s when there was at least 15 metres of beach in front of them and the high tide mark with a lot more vegetation and native Ngaio. The couple purchased the properties so Beryl’s mother Ivy Wallage (nee Harris) could move from Featherston to be close to the family in Havelock North. “She wanted to be by the sea...she was a beach girl,” says Des. Des and Beryl, now in their 90s and living in Auckland, drove past Cape View Corner in late April (earlier in 2021) and were surprised to see the second batch still standing. “While my mother-in-law was still living there, several big storms did damage all along the beach. The bach at the front got filled up with shingle,” he says.

There must have been a big clean up and refitting after the Jolls on-sold because it was still being rented out in the 1980s, including to an older Maori woman whose son was a fisherman and regularly laid out nets in the front. Dei Gould lived in it in 1993 and says “it was a bit of a wreck and a party hang out” with some wild stormy nights inside and out.

Get out the back Jack

Hastings councillor and WOW Inc founder, Ann Redstone, says a chap with a red convertible lived there for a while and kept his motorcycle inside. “He had a party one night and when he opened the seaside window shutters he realised the waves were much higher than he thought.” The story told the next day is that when he realised the sea was coming over the top “he chain sawed an opening in the back wall to get his bike out ... while he was doing that his couch and furniture were sucked out the front into the sea”. Large concrete blocks were placed in front of the twin to prevent it succumbing to the same fate and served that purpose well for years. The Cliffords lived there in 1983-84 and no doubt there were many other short-term tenants. Keith and Sandra McLean owned it for several years from around 2009. They wanted to renovate it as a holiday bach but ran into so many consenting obstacles they gave up and sold to property developer Andy Coltart.

The front deck remained a favourite spot for coffee and picnics for several seasons. Although boarded up, people still managed to prise open the doors or windows for parties or an overnight shelter and it soon became little more than a vandalised shell. It was removed after a community gathering on 4 May.

End of Sea Spray

Sea Spray, just to the right of the bach, had a succession of owners. The late champion of coastal protection and concrete company founder Johnny Bridgeman had it as a short-term rental. Despite his efforts to pour tonnes of concrete into the foundations, it was undermined and began leaning into the sea, making it unstable and requiring the power to be cut off.

According to local historian Michael Fowler, Sea Spray began its life as an old army hut that was used as a shearer’s quarters in Haumoana before being moved to No 7 Clifton Rd by Ernie Mintoff the owner of Freeman Motors in Hastings in the late 1940s.

Jack Jones of Hastings Motors and his wife Joan purchased Sea Spray from Mintoft in the early 1950s. Their children Paul, Mark, Joanna and Jackie recall staying there in the late 1970s when there was only a "long drop" in the backyard. Jones’ family photographs show railway irons with tyres being used in an attempt to protect their properties before a concrete wall was put in place in front of their neighbour, David Bawden's house.

Coastal defence installed in front of a Haumoana property
Coastal Defence - Railway Irons & Tyres

During the storm of 1974, which wreaked havoc with floods all over Hawke's Bay, ferocious seas destroyed the Bawdens' concrete wall in three places and inflicted damage on the baches. Shingle thrown from the sea piled so high against Sea Spray that the Jones family maintain you could step up onto the roof on it. Mark Jones gathered his rugby mates to shovel it away. Damage was done to the louvre windows and the front of the bach. Joanna can remember her father saying on occasion, "Look this wave's going to be a big one," to see it wash under the house and spill out onto Clifton Rd.

Johnny Bridgeman, who owned several properties along the strip, including his family home which had been protected with a sheet pile wall, sold Sea Spray to a Pahiatua plumber. In midst of the revetment wall creation it changed hands again, to developer Andy Coltart who had also acquired No 3 and it was gone within weeks making room for the wall and possibly a restaurant on poles and adjacent car park.

Block wall opposed

The struggle to remain safe in the houses along this controversial strip has not been an easy one for those who have tried to take matters into their own hands. In August 2002 the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) weighed in on John Rowlings’ homemade sea wall which had just protected his home from being inundated. He’d paid $560 in resource consent to make sure his $9830 concrete block seawall complied and been given the Ok to build “no greater than a metre in height”. He was led to believe that meant above the level of the road but on completion he was told to lower it a metre ... no higher than “natural beach level” otherwise he would be fined or could even face jail time. Rowling insisted he did not know what “natural beach level” meant as it changed from tide to tide. In August however it was deemed compliant, because recent tides had caused the shingle to rise and it was now less than a metre above beach level.

In the March 2005 inundation that finally saw the remainder of one of the twin weatherboard baches rolling into the sea, several private beach walls were “pounded to bits”, as waves flowed over the beachfront flooding about five homes, overtopping one house and dumping debris on the road.

Another house at No 29 was actually pulled into the sea in 2005 and only recused and re-established on its foundations and restored after locals, including Johnny Bridgeman helped rescue it.

Save wife and kittens

Cape View Corner resident David Copp prepared for the predicted high seas by placing corrugated iron over the front windows of his beachfront house. He sent his wife and children away for the day, moved a box of kittens and his fishing gear and pot plants to the back of the house and waited. When the waves came at 10pm his front wall made from one tonne concrete blocks “tumbled like Lego bricks” but Mr Copp said they still protected his house. The previous storm had toppled the wall but he’d paid $3000 to have it put back up.

He was disappointed nothing had been done by councils to prevent damage. “It would have been nice to see them do something about it.”

He pointed to a neighbour’s property (Bridgemans family home) that had withstood damage because of a huge steel and concrete buffer structure that had cost him a small fortune in consenting and construction fees.

Dan O’Leary whose cottage was undermined and tipped over by the storm was weary of the whole thing. “Nup, I’m out of it.” He had moved a month previously and was living with friends next door.

Chris Sherratt, who moved into the controversial Clifton Rd area in 2002 and along with his neighbour built a wooden fence on the coastal side of their beachfront homes. In 2009 they were challenged by Hastings Council and told what they had done was illegal.

“As far as I know this is a wooden fence, not a sea wall. What do they expect us to do? They would be happy for us to do nothing, to sit this out and hope we would move away but we aren’t going to do that,” he said. “I think the councils should make it easier for people to do something themselves.”

Home owners along the H18 stretch are currently waiting to hear whether engineering plans for a novel interlocking protection wall along their frontage will receive consent from local councils. See part two: Cape View Corner Casualties

Sources: Residents want help in fight against sea, Daily Telegraph, 18-08-1973 Families are leaving for good, HB Herald Tribune, 19-08-74 Te Awanga families 1800ft home escapes the savage seas, $16,000 move across the road is ‘a big relief’, Daily Telegraph, 27-08-75 Michael Fowler, Historic Hawke’s Bay, 19 June 2021

Seawall consent fuss leaves home-owner angry, confused, Andrea Elderfield, HB Today, 8 August 2002

The wildest we’ve had, says resident, Doug Laing, HB Today 18 March 2005


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