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Published: 2006-06-16 00:00:00

Environment Waikato recognises the problems faced by beachfront property owners at Mokau threatened by erosion, but says there is no easy solution to the problem.

Severe storms earlier this week battered the frontal dunes at Mokau, causing one bach to slip into the sea.

Environment Waikato coastal manager Hugh Keane said managing coastal erosion at Mokau was extremely difficult.

“We’re probably dealing with the worst case scenario here when it comes to managing coastal erosion – a west coast dune system adjacent to a river mouth.”

The frontal dunes at Mokau have been identified for many years as a high risk zone under the Waitomo District Plan.

Environment Waikato and Waitomo District Council have been working with the Mokau community for the past decade to find solutions, but none have proved practical given the challenging environment.

“Three years ago councils ran a series of meetings with the community and we engaged coastal experts to look at practical options to manage erosion,” Mr Keane said.

“Unfortunately, given the high risk environment, there were no cheap options. The cost of building a properly designed seawall was estimated at $1.3 million, but the community felt that was just unaffordable and impracticable.”

In the past few years, some property owners have tried to protect their properties by building unauthorised seawalls out of sandbags, boulders and timber – but the council says these structures can only be considered temporary and could exacerbate the erosion problem for unprotected properties.

“Some of the unauthorised walls are breaking down and the nylon sandbags are floating away, and could become a potential navigation and safety hazard to boaties,” Mr Keane said.

“In addition, if property owners continue to build these makeshift structures, public access along the beach may become difficult.

“While we recognise the plight of the affected property owners, there is really no easy solution to this problem.”

Environment Waikato will continue to monitor the situation and in the interests of public safety, and for the stability of adjacent land, urges people not to build or add to existing seawalls.