Greater Wellington acts on coastal erosion at Queen Elizabeth Park
Greater Wellington Regional Council has voted to act on climate change-driven coastal erosion in Kapiti’s Queen Elizabeth Park through the establishment of a 40-metre erosion buffer zone along the park’s southern coast.
The approach responds to a 2010 study of the coastal edge of QEP which estimated that within 50 years up to 40 metres of fore-dunes would be lost, a single large storm event could result in 40 metres of erosion, and ongoing erosion is likely to occur along the toe of fore-dunes.
“The coastal edge of the park is a dynamic landscape, vulnerable to erosion and the effects of climate change. We’ve taken the view that we must acknowledge the threat and act now to manage it as far as possible,” says Greater Wellington Chair Chris Laidlaw.
“Our policy of managed coastal retreat is a taste of things to come as we consider the implications of regional coastal adaptation in the face of climate change. QEP provides us with a microcosm of the wider issue facing coastal settlements throughout the country.
”Given the enormously high cost of coastal retreat and relocation of infrastructure assets that will occur throughout the country we will be looking to central government to contribute to funding.
With the onset of sea level rise, more and more extreme rainfall events and the increasing frequency and intensity of storms, Greater Wellington is moving to protect the park’s assets, restore the fore-dunes and re-establish opportunities for people to use and enjoy the area.
The coastal erosion plan focuses on the coastal edge from the park’s southern entrance at Wellington Road in Paekakariki to approximately 900 metres to the north. It includes dune lands, Paekakariki surf club, Budge House, Wainui Pā, Wainui Stream, and a network of green open spaces, picnic areas, roads, carparks, trails and beach access. It does not apply to the holiday park or urupa.
QEP’s coast is no stranger to weather-induced damage. Two cyclones earlier in 2018 showed how vulnerable the park’s coastal edge is to storms and erosion. The pedestrian bridge across the mouth of Wainui Stream was washed away and the toe of the fore-dunes significantly eroded. Tracks along the beach edge and the coastal ring road were eroded and beach access made difficult.
Greater Wellington has taken an adaptive management approach to ongoing and severe erosion, preferring to relocate assets and abandon some coastal tracks in the knowledge that building defensive infrastructure would be costly, unlikely to be successful over the long term and out of place in QEP’s natural environment.
“The plan is about adapting to circumstances. It’s obviously futile to fight against the immeasurable forces that erode these shores. The better course is to allow natural coastal processes to take place while protecting key assets and enabling access,” says Cr Laidlaw.
The next steps will involve more detailed landscape planning of the site, developing a proposed timeline for implementation, obtaining the necessary consents, authorities and preparing environmental restoration plans. Officers consider the latter, in particular, as presenting excellent opportunities for further community involvement.