Back on 14 September 2021 wind, tide and rain shifted the Waikawa River and cut off the access for vehicles and horses to the beach.
That caused a lot of consternation in the community, as it did last time it happened, in February 2018, and probably also every time before that. It has been a very trying time for many people. At some points threats towards people or property were made or implied — a very ugly situation.
At our recent Committee meeting beach access for vehicles was discussed in depth.
Access for vehicles and horses from Manga Pirau Street is cut off. Pedestrian access is still possible, though tricky.
Horowhenua District Council have placed concrete blocks across the beach end of Manga Pirau Street to prevent vehicles going through. That was in response to a request from the Miratanas, who own the private land the track crosses.
The Miratanas have long had a legal agreement with Horowhenua District Council that allows access on a single formed track that HDC look after. Part of that agreement was that no other track is to be created or used, otherwise all access may be revoked.
Unfortunately people were using and extending a track that was created illegally a few years ago, jeopardising everyone’s access. Vegetation was mowed — an act of trespass — creating an erosion hazard.
Moreover, some in the community took it upon themselves to pile driftwood across the illegally cut track — an act not only of trespass, but that created a hazard.
The Miratanas asked Horowhenua District Council to secure the access for the time being so people can’t take vehicles through there.
There was also misinformation being put about that the WBRA were trying to prevent vehicles from accessing the beach, and some people were claiming the landowners had granted access through other tracks.
When the HDC installed the concrete blocks on 19 October 2021 they clarified that the Miratanas had not in fact given permission for other tracks to be used.
See Horowhenua District Council clarifies vehicle access to beach 19-Oct-21 for more information.
Access through Manga Pirau Street cannot be reinstated until the river moves, allowing for work on the track. One way to shift the river is by a river cut as has been done in the past.
Even Councils have to get Resource Consents for doing work. Cr Christine Mitchell advised us at the Committee meeting that Horizons Regional Council allowed the previous resource consent for river cuts to lapse. HRC now need to apply for another Consent before they can do any work. This could take some time.
Note: Horowhenua District Council have no input or control over that Resource Consent.
In addition: it seems that HRC are not legally allowed to alter the river during whitebaiting season (including some time before and after when whitebait fishing is permitted). This is to ensure that the natural movements of whitebait for breeding are not interrupted.
Access in the longer term
The Committee spent some time discussing how to secure longer term access for horses and vehicles to the beach. That discussion will be put on our website separately.
What can we all do?
The WBRA needs to lobby HRC for urgency in dealing with this, and we will be doing that.
Note: John Hewitson, our Chair, spent a lot of time over recent weeks attempting to contact numerous people on this issue, including Horizons Regional Council representatives, with little success. If it seems the WBRA has been doing nothing that is simply because a lot of effort has reaped little tangible reward. It leaves little to say when all calls are being ignored.
What individuals can do: let Horizons Regional Council know that beach access is a very important issue and ask for urgency in dealing with the currently disrupted access.
For all enquiries talk to the customer services team. 24hr freephone: (+64) 0508 800 800 Ph: (+64) 6 9522 800.
There will be further information coming out about access for horses and vehicles to the beach. Please follow along on our website and newsletter.
Note: this post was double-checked by the Chair before publishing. We do that for articles on particularly sensitive topics.