Mangamaunu – a Nationally Significant Surf Break in Kaikoura, New Zealand – is threatened by proposed cycleway that will irreparably damage this righthand point break.
Mangamaunu is a righthand point break just north of Kaikoura that peels over a cobblestone seabed, reeling for more than 300 meters on a good day of swell. Unfortunately, its fate is uncertain as a proposed infrastructure project could threaten the very coastal dynamics that make it so special. Under the pretext of earthquake reconstruction works, the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance (NCTIR) has plans to develop a cycleway and car park right above the surf break along with a large sloping rock revetment to protect them from coastal erosion.
Mangamaunu is a righthand point break just north of Kaikoura that peels over a cobblestone seabed, reeling for more than 300 meters on a good day of swell. During the winter, the waves are groomed by predominantly offshore winds that blow from the snow capped Kaikoura Mountain Range that spans the horizon. This pristine set up is a source of deep pride for locals and visitors alike, and has resulted in Mangamaunu’s designation as an Outstanding Natural Feature in the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement. Surrounding the surf spot in Mangamaunu Bay are established mataitai reserves, in which the indigenous peoples of New Zealand manage non commercial fisheries. Furthermore the bay is a whale sanctuary that serves as a migratory corridor for sperm whales. Needless to say, it’s a special place. Unfortunately, it’s fate is uncertain as a proposed infrastructure project could threaten the very coastal dynamics that make it so special.
The surf break, along with the surrounding features of great cultural and environmental significance, weathered the 2016 earthquakes in New Zealand. However, emergency earthquake public works provisions that bypass traditional planning processes now pose a considerable threat to the area. Under the pretext of earthquake reconstruction works, and enhancing the future resilience of the stretch of coastline upon which Mangamaunu resides, the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery alliance (NCTIR) has instigated plans to develop a cycleway and car park right above the surf break along with a large sloping rock revetment to protect them from coastal erosion.
Local groups, such as the Surfbreak Protection Society, have called out inconsistencies in the NCTIR’s justification for this coastal development project. Firstly, constructing a new cycleway and car park represents new coastal development, not restoration as argued. This makes the applicability of emergency earthquake funds for this project questionable. Secondly, as the coastline surrounding Mangamaunu rose substantially during the earthquake, and is thus less vulnerable to sea level rise than before the earthquake, the pretext of enhancing coastal resilience with further construction is dubious.
The legislative process through which these plans were passed failed to consider potential impacts upon surf quality, cultural heritage sites, and the surrounding ecosystems. The imposing rock revetment included in the construction plans would be built on the beach, fringing upon the mean high water line of the surfbreak, and with subsurface structures extending out to the low water mark. Backwash from the revetment would exacerbate rip currents, enlarge erosion holes, and scour the beach resulting in a completely altered beach profile. These changes would considerably deteriorate the quality of the surf at Mangamaunu. Furthermore, intensive construction works would threaten the delicate and interconnected ecosystems that compose the mataitai reserve and whale sanctuary.
More broadly, this threatens to undermine years of advances for New Zealand’s coastal management policy. As New Zealand has had great success in managing their coastal resources, and serves as a model for many other nations around the world, this misuse of earthquake emergency provisions represents a threat to NZ’s coastal policy leadership intended to protect the recreational, cultural, economic, and environmental benefits of outstanding surf breaks.
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