Note: this is a long but important read. Please take the time to read it carefully and consider the options. Also, look at the screenshots at the end.
Waikawa Beach is legally a road. It was used by coaches long before State Highway 1 or the railway existed. In recent times the speed limit was reduced by Horowhenua District Council from 100 Kph to 30 Kph.
There is however no way to access that road by horse or vehicle directly from the roads in the Waikawa Beach area. For a very long time (probably always), access has been through private land that lies between Manga Pirau Street and the beach.
As we know, the beach access off the west end of Manga Pirau Street is:
- through private land, at the discretion of the landowner. Horowhenua District Council and the landowner have an agreement granting public access through the land.
- very vulnerable to severe disruption through weather, such as the storm in September 2021 and ex-Tropical Cyclone Gita in February 2018 to mention two recent examples. See Danger: Beach access completely cut off and The morning after Ex-TC Gita.
At its October 2021 meeting the WBRA Committee decided to explore how to get better access to the beach for horses, pedestrians and vehicles in the long-term:
Resolved: WBRA document a supportive strategy to seek an alternative vehicle / pedestrian / horse beach access outside Manga Pirau Street entrance; while also encouraging both Horowhenua District Council and Horizons Regional Council to seek renewable resource consent for redirection of the river and reinstating beach access via Manga Pirau Street.
Council owned land at Waikawa Beach
If we consult the official Horowhenua District Council maps we can see Council owns several bits of land at Waikawa Beach:
- A strip of land between 24 and 26 Drake Street leads to the river upstream of the footbridge.
- There is a strip of land off the end of the footbridge whose ownership is unclear — it may or may not be Council owned. It’s about 400 metres long and 20 metres wide and terminates on the beach well north of the river. It is also heavily forested and quite possibly goes through a wetland. (Note: the current footbridge is to be rebuilt in the next few years.)
- A strip of land between 47 and 49 Manga Pirau Street leads to the river upstream of the groyne.
- A strip of land at number 10 Reay Mackay Grove leads to the beach immediately south of the river. It is of variable width, but about 15 metres at the road end and wider as it nears the beach. It’s hard to judge the length from the map as sand steadily and quickly accretes in that area and extensive plantings of pīngao and spinifex over the last 5 or 10 years have held and built up that sand. On foot it’s about 175 metres from the road to the open beach. In the last roughly 5 to 10 years the track has almost doubled in length. Metre high posts marking the track have been buried and a second layer of posts has also been buried. That suggests an additional 2 metres gain in height of sand in that period.
- A strip of land at number 60 Reay Mackay Grove is about 5 metres wide and 50 metres long. It exits onto the beach about 1 Km south of the river and 1 Km north of the Waiorongomai Stream. This track has occasionally suffered washouts like the Manga Pirau Street access in particularly bad weather, such as in July 2016 when a 1 metre drop was carved out. Time and sand accretion tend to restore the track. Tides, surge and wind can also toss driftwood up into the dunes.
Both beach accesses off Reay Mackay Grove are currently pedestrian-only: neither motor vehicles nor horses are allowed through there.
We also believe that Horowhenua District Council owns part of each track but Horizons Regional Council are in control of the land extending from the beach to a certain demarcation point along the track. Both parties would be involved in any actions in relation to the tracks.
This latter point needs to be confirmed, but see 8.1.1 in the Horizons Regional Council One Plan (28.3 MB PDF) defining the Coastal Marine Area as:
the area from mean high water springs (MHWS) seaward 12 nautical miles, and includes foreshore and seabed, the water column, air space, estuarine areas, beaches and salt marshes.
The landward component of the coastal environment is managed by both the Regional Council and Territorial Authorities. Territorial Authorities control land use activities inland from MHWS through their district plans. The Regional Council manages some activities landward of MHWS through other chapters of this Plan.
Privately owned land
The land across the footbridge is largely or completely privately owned. All the other land not mentioned above that leads to the river or beach is also privately owned.
One interesting note: the Horowhenua District Council do not own the land across the front of the Miratana block — Miratana ownership extends across the beach and into the sea.
Councils are very engaged in risk assessment as they spend our ratepayer dollars. They are all doing a lot of work currently on risks posed by climate change. Where rivers and the sea are concerned they are likely to be extremely sensitive to factors like sea level rise, rainfall, storms, erosion of the dunes, and the like.
Note: we are not in this document recommending or supporting any particular option — it’s for the community as a whole to decide what to support. These are simply the options that seem to be available. If you see other different options please let us know what they are.
Many or all of these options are likely to be very costly and to require a huge amount of lobbying and negotiation with at least two Councils, potentially other groups such as DoC, and, of course, Resource Consents and possible zoning changes.
In order to achieve a long-term goal we will need to accept that there are simply no quick fixes.
- Accept the current status quo: at some point access through the Miratana block at the end of Manga Pirau Street will be restored by Council, probably via river cut, but it could be lost again at any time by reason of weather (or the landowner changing their mind). The last few times access has been lost there has been a period of many months before it was restored. Resource Consents are required and there are restrictions on the timing of any river cut. (See Horizons Regional Council One Plan Chapter 17:
The use of mobile machinery in or on the foreshore in a manner that disturbs the foreshore or a whitebait fishery must not take place in estuarine areas 15 August to 30 November.)
- Abandon the idea of vehicles accessing the beach from Waikawa Beach village or Strathnaver. Do nothing.
- Investigate the viability of the apparent corridor on the other side of the footbridge and whether when the bridge is rebuilt it could be in such a way as to allow light vehicles to use it.
- Lobby Horowhenua District Council and Horizons Regional Council to allow vehicle and horse access through Council-owned land, such as one of the tracks off Reay Mackay Grove (oops — this accidentally originally said Manga Pirau Street). Those are the only two Council tracks that actually lead to the beach rather than the river.
- Buy a currently privately owned property (or part of a property) and create a new, permanent and enduring, beach access.
We encourage you, the community, to think about and investigate these options, and to consider whether there are other options not mentioned here.
We encourage respectful discussion on this matter so that you, the community as a whole, can guide the WBRA.
We know emotions run high on this topic, and opinions fall on an extremely broad spectrum. Please feel free to state your opinions, but keep discussion constructive.
Note: this post was double-checked by the Chair before publishing. We do that for articles on particularly sensitive topics.