Public access to Waikawa Beach

Information about possible and actual beach access points.

The Waikawa Beach community is spread over two or three locations: the village, alongside the river; the Walkers Lane and Emma Drive area, slightly to the east of the village; and the Strathnaver area, south of the village and alongside the beach between the river to the north and the Waiorongomai Stream to the south.

The Horowhenua District Council has an excellent online mapping tool that provides a huge amount of information about the land and properties.

The means to access the beach lie in the village and Strathnaver. Both are areas defined as being Outstanding Natural Features and Landscapes.

Waikawa Beach.
Waikawa Beach.

Beach access from the village is tricky. The village is the natural “landing point” for the many visitors who come from elsewhere. We know our beach is frequently used by people from Manakau, Ōhau, Levin, Ōtaki and other places further afield.

The footbridge and north dunes

There’s a pedestrian bridge over the river in the village, blocked by bars to hinder motorbikes which also cause problems or deny access for horses and others.

Bike bars at the footbridge.
Bike bars at the footbridge.

According to the map, across the footbridge is a strip of land that appears to be a continuation of Waikawa Beach Road and does not appear to be privately owned. Unlike the plots of land on either side this strip shows no Rates information or details about Lots, parcels or valuations. This suggests it’s owned either by the Council or the Crown.

North side of the river.
North side of the river.

That strip of land is approximately 20 metres wide and 400 metres long and runs directly from the footbridge to the coast.

The land on either side is privately owned, but the owners allow the public free use.

The Manga Pirau Street access

At the south end of Manga Pirau Street is a privately owned block of land that starts from the centre point of Strathnaver Drive — the Huritini 6B block. That block covers almost 23 hectares and actually extends across the beach and into the sea.

Huritini 6B land block.
Huritini 6B land block.

For at least the last couple of decades, and almost certainly a lot longer, the owner has had a verbal agreement with the Waikawa Beach Ratepayers Association that the public may access the beach across the corner of that block, provided they respect the environment.

Traditional vehicle entrance crosses private land.
Traditional vehicle entrance crosses private land.

That area has traditionally been used as the official vehicle entrance, but has eroded heavily over the last few years and since February 2018 terminates in a sudden drop of at least 1 metre, with the river directly below. This area is steadily and dramatically eroding.

1 metre drop.
1 metre drop.

It’s worth noting that the private land owners could revoke public access at any time, though they’ve shown extreme tolerance until now.

It’s also worth noting that that area, cluttered by signs, is the only place in Waikawa Beach where the public can enjoy a view across the beach and to Kāpiti Island without needing to actually go onto the sand. That makes it the perfect spot for people with mobility problems (and others) to enjoy the scenery.

The Strathnaver area

On the Strathnaver side (2+ kilometres by road from the village and including 3 speed bumps) are two pedestrian tracks off Reay Mackay Grove. Vehicles and horses are forbidden on these tracks. This whole area is classified as Strathnaver Coastal Natural Character and Strathnaver Coastal Hazard Area.

That section of coast is eroding with every very high tide and strong wind.

Reay Mackay Grove tracks.
Reay Mackay Grove tracks.

The Reay Mackay Grove South Track

The South Track is at #60 Reay Mackay Grove and is Council owned land, zoned as Open Space. It’s around 1 Km along the beach south of the Waikawa River.

This track is approximately 5 metres wide and around 90 metres long.

It’s worth noting that in winter 2017 one storm took a chunk of sand away (all along that section of coast) so the walking track terminated in a vertical drop of at least 1 metre. That has since been worn down to a slope by pedestrians and horses. With very high tides the sea comes right to the base of the dunes and leaves driftwood up on the dune slopes.

With very high tides the sea comes right to the base of the dunes.
With very high tides the sea comes right to the base of the dunes.

The Reay Mackay Grove North track

The South Track is at #3 Reay Mackay Grove and is Council owned land, zoned as Open Space.

This pedestrian-only track is about 15 metres wide by the road and the north side is around 120 metres long. At the west end it widens and veers south. At its widest point it’s around 100 metres wide.

This is the one area of the coast where sand is accreting. It’s also an area where dunes have been building, there is plentiful soft sand, and birds such as Oystercatchers nest.

As an example of the soft sand building up: there was originally a boardwalk at the seaward end of the track. It had standard round posts beside it, with wires between. The tops of the posts stood at about hip height. In the last 12 to 24 months not only has the boardwalk been buried, but so have the posts. There is now a second layer of square posts on top which are gradually disappearing too.

Sand accretes and dunes are building at the north track off Reay Mackay Grove.
Sand accretes and dunes are building at the north track off Reay Mackay Grove.

A couple of years ago pingao and spinifex were planted in a large area beside this track. They have flourished and the dune beneath is growing in extent.

Current efforts by locals to keep motorbikes out of the new dunes and bird nesting areas by placing driftwood have also helped stabilise dunes where the track exits onto the beach.

Where the north track exits to the beach.
Where the north track exits to the beach. Click for a larger version of this panorama.

Resource Consents and other permits

Councils can’t arbitrarily do work on even their own land. Putting in tracks or roads requires things like:

  • finding and allocating funds for the original work and for regular maintenance.
  • discussions and consultations with iwi, Horizons Regional Council and other parties such as Forest and Bird, Department of Conservation, and neighbours are required before work that is not already consented can take place.
  • the Council may need to apply for a Resource Consent to do works and may need to rezone land, depending on the work to be done.
  • a permit for work may depend on things like planting plans or making arrangements for local wildlife protection.

Time constraints

There will be a delay before any changes can be implemented. Getting consents, allowing for public consultation and scheduling workers and equipment can take quite some time. In the case of major works, such as controlling coastal erosion or the course of the river, that delay could be years.

A Resource Consent which expires on 01 July 2020 is in place to cut the Waikawa River. A cut can be done quickly and relatively inexpensively but even the original consultation document from 1997 which led to river cutting concedes, this is only a temporary solution whose effects can last as little as a few days. Locals have seen a river cut nullified in less than a week.

In particular, No diversion or damming of the mouth of the Waikawa Stream shall take place between 15 August and 30 November of any year (whitebaiting season). [Per the Resource Consent.]

Interesting documents

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