Some of the region's surfers are growing increasingly concerned about the ongoing dumping of dredged material from the Port of Tauranga channel deepening project.
And one national environmental organisation fears the scheme will destroy surf breaks in the area as waves reconfigure to changes on the bottom of the sea.
Concerns are being expressed over the future of Matakana Island's surf breaks. Photos: Jerry Aubertin.
The Surfbreak Protection Society (SPS) have gone public to register their disappointment over a lack of progress in talks with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the Port of Tauranga over its concerns.
'We would have preferred to see a proper monitoring system in place before capital dredging started in order to establish good baseline data,” says SPS research and communications person Michael Gunson.
'That is obviously not going to happen now,”
Since 2010, the importance of maintaining locally and regionally significant surf breaks has been part of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (NZCPS), with specific protection for 17 surf breaks of national significance.
The NZCPS also provides general protection for surf breaks as part of the natural character and as natural features of the coastal environment.
The SPS was approached by Bay of Plenty surfers concerned about degraded surfing conditions at the Mount and Papamoa over the last year or so, says Michael.
'It's because of these concerns the SPS approached regional council and the port company over monitoring the surf breaks, including Matakana Island, regarding the effects of port dredging.
'At the Mount, what has been observed by local surfers is channels forming close to the beach and the disappearance of localised sandbars, with peaks forming out to sea then fading or losing steepness and the waves dumping on the shore.”
The uncompleted and now removed Tay Street artificial reef was blamed for causing strong rips and currents over the last few years, says Michael.
Yet the dredging dump sites between Grove Avenue and Tay Street receive up to 300,000 cubic meters per year from port maintenance dredging.
The uncompleted artificial reef contained half of the 6500 cubic meters originally consented for, yet the area's surf lifesaving clubs continue to report a 100 per cent increase in rescues.
'It seems implausible that the effects of the reef would be the cause when depositing of dredge spoil has continued in this time frame,” says Michael.
The SPS has been engaging with the Bay of Plenty regional Council and the Port with regard to what has been observed and the area's surf breaks since May.
'The response has been generally supportive,” he explains, 'though the speed to set up proper monitoring/analysis has not been to our liking.
'We have had a couple of hurdles to overcome. The council expert has been away for a month, and we are awaiting his assessment of a technical memo provided on our behalf by eCoast Marine and Consulting Ltd.”
The memo highlights what they perceive to be lacking in port activities for protecting the area's surf breaks, and offers a methodology to protect them.
The Matakana Island surf breaks are created by the Matakana Bank – a large, ebb-tidal delta offshore.
'We have approached local iwi through the Mauao management committee regarding the placement of a monitoring system on the slopes of the Mount for the benefit of Matakana Island,” says Michael.
'Such a system will assist with seeing how the dredging effects the ebb tidal delta, Matakana Island's surf breaks and the coastline that supports them. This would be beneficial for all parties.
'While we cannot hope to influence the speed for iwi to consider the monitoring system for Matakana on Mauao, SPS feels the council and the port could move quicker to install a system for Mount beaches in the vicinity of Tay Street.”