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Stonewalled in Westshore

Keith Newman finds coastal campaigner Larry Dallimore as persistent as the current that perpetually sweeps gravel northward around Hawke’s Bay. With millions of public dollars and a valuable coastline at stake, why aren’t councils responding to him?

Larry Dallimore is a stone in the shoes of Hawke’s Bay bureaucrats, engineers and councillors. They wish he’d stop pestering them about the dynamics of coastal erosion and his proposed Westshore seawall.

Dallimore, who has lived at Westshore for over 30-years, is first to admit that people’s eyes mostly glaze over when he tries to explain the coastal processes that are unique to Hawke Bay and the simple construction measures that could stop erosion and save councils millions of dollars.

Larry Dallimore

Although the retired contractor doesn’t have academic ABCs after his name, he’s got old school, hands-on credentials, having worked for all the local authorities over decades constructing reclamations, seawalls and breakwaters.

Dallimore’s often verbose attempts to deliver reports on how he sees things seem to get him into deep water, particularly when he advocates the use of local limestone for coastal protection, rubbishes the 2007 Komar ‘shoreline erosion’ report and criticises the tendency for councils to ignore the flexibility in the National Coastal Policy Statement.

When he’s not playing golf or fishing, Dallimore has made it his business to keep a watchful eye on decisions relating to Westshore erosion, which extends 2.8km from the headland at the Iron Pot (Whakarire Ave) to just past the end of Westshore Esplanade.

He’s attended all the meetings about the Napier City Council’s proposed 155 metre breakwater at Whakarire Ave and remains astounded at “the nonsense some people come up with” and the reliance on out-of-town experts to over-ride previous reports.

His current pet peeve is Napier mayor Barbara Arnott’s “fantasy” that if you add a new breakwater and keep renourishing with gravel, the sand will eventually come back to beaches north of the Port of Napier.

Dallimore wonders why Napier City would rather pay millions for ineffective beach renourishment and a new breakwater than have an open discussion around his concerns, and the possibility his seawall proposal might have merit.

He reckons private property, Kiwi Beach public toilets and large areas of reserve in the erosion zone could be saved through extra strengthening to existing rock protection. By adding a permanent rock seawall the Westshore Surf Club and the entire beach reserve would also be secured, saving millions on renourishment costs.

Dallimore is convinced breakwater extensions at the Port of Napier, and the deepening of the shipping trench which gathers northbound coastal sediment, have been major contributors to Westshore erosion since the 1970s.

Rather than Napier ratepayers footing the bulk of the cost for protection works and renourishment, he wants to see the Port of Napier and its 100% owner HBRC taking ownership for the man-made problem and the solution.

The earliest attempt to protect Westshore was in 1987, when a badly executed renourishment plan, using incompatible material sourced from the estuary, turned the beach into a muddy mess. Then Beca Infrastructure designed a shingle bank with a “moderate repose” but with each swell Dallimore says beach access becomes impossible.

The renourishment plan is supposed to include dredge droppings brought in from Pacific Beach, Marine Parade, which would otherwise end up in the shipping lane and be removed at a cost of over $30 m3. However the dredges can’t get close enough to the Westshore erosion zone.

In fact, most of the spoil gets washed further north to Bay View where, according to Dallimore, they’re appreciating the improved surfing, a wider beach and greater demand for properties.

Overall, he says, the $4 million Westshore nourishment programme is a costly waste of time, made worse by the use of increasingly smaller pebbles from Pacific Beach that are essentially rejects from years of shingle plant screening. “It’s an engineering myth that you can put pebbles on a sandy beach and expect them to stay there or that you will eventually restore that beach.”

Breakwater resistance

Dallimore says similar nourishment issues plagued the beach at Whakarire Ave, where material was simply swept north over a seven year period. NCC built a rubble and limestone wall in 1994 to reclaim and protect the land, but it funnelled wave energy to the southern side of Westshore worsening the erosion.

NCC now plans to mitigate that with the $4 million breakwater project, plus increasing the height of the seawall and re-profiling the backshore, in the hope it’ll create a new sandy beach on top of a reef, something Dallimore struggles to comprehend.

He believes the Beca Infrastructure designed breakwater will only funnel even more wave energy northward into the erosion zone. He tried to explain why it won’t work in a 30-page ‘discussion note’, then a further 34 page addendum to Napier councillors but claims nothing was discussed, explained or refuted.

Dallimore wanted a public debate with himself and the Beca engineer answering seawall versus breakwater questions. That seemed acceptable until a point of order was raised, essentially stating “we can’t have our paid consultants being quizzed by our residents”. A seminar was then held but he was barred from attending.

He began discussing the issue with the Beca engineer reviewing his report, but that dialogue was shut down by Napier mayor Barbara Arnott, who apparently insisted it was costing the council money and therefore ‘unacceptable’. He could never quite figure that one out.

Although issues about length are holding up the breakwater consent process, Dallimore reckons it won’t get past submissions from surfers who believe it will ruin their surfbreak, HBRC interpretations of the coastal policy, and opposition from environmental groups.

That may swing the focus back to his 2.8km rock seawall for Westshore. However, Dallimore worries that even if it is considered consentable, it may be subject to artificially inflated costs. The case in point is the “over designed and extravagant” repair job on the badly maintained Hardinge Rd seawall.
Napier City contracted HBRC to repair a 45 metre section of the seawall; it used filter cloth, crushed concrete, limestone rubble and a 1.5m layer of limestone boulders costing $135,000 or $3000 per metre.

Dallimore reckons a simple ‘rip rap’ seawall with a base of graded rubble then a rock armour layer would have been adequate at less than half the cost.