Councillors reject St Clair groyne trial

Councillor Jules Radich at St Clair Beach in December 2021. Photo: Gregor Richardson
Councillor Jules Radich at St Clair Beach in December 2021. Photo: Gregor Richardson
A proposed trial of a restored groyne at St Clair Beach in Dunedin has been voted down.

Reinstatement of a wooden groyne was pitched by Dunedin city councillor Jules Radich as a proven way to build up the beach by trapping sand, but colleagues were not convinced.

The council voted 7-5 against his notice of motion at a Dunedin City Council meeting on Thursday. Cr Sophie Barker abstained.

Cr Radich had pushed for a five-year trial of a reinstated groyne.

Cr Steve Walker was particularly dismissive, saying material supplied by Cr Radich to support his case "reads like a schoolboy’s project".

"Before" and "after" pictures had been produced, appearing to show the difference groynes had made in the past, and this reminded him "not of anything scientific but of a late-night television advert on how to reverse hair loss", Cr Walker said.

Cr Walker said the council should avoid ad hoc decision-making and kneejerk reactions.

Cr Carmen Houlahan said Cr Walker’s commentary was "one of the rudest speeches I’ve ever heard in this chamber".

In February, the council approved a plan that outlined broad approaches for managing the coast from St Clair to St Kilda.

The vision was to enhance the natural environment, for it to be resilient to coastal hazards and sea-level rise and for future generations to be provided with access and recreational opportunities.

Cr Radich said reinstatement of the groyne would be a low-cost experiment and the public wanted it to happen.

The cost of construction was estimated at $150,000, as well as consenting costs of about $15,000, monitoring of $7500 a year and annual maintenance of between $30,000 and $60,000.

The project could buy the city time before expensive solutions might become necessary, Cr Radich argued previously.

Cr Chris Staynes doubted the proposed trial’s usefulness in assisting management of the coastline.

"Putting in one groyne will not tell us very much at all."

Deputy mayor Christine Garey was wary of potential effects that ranged from impeding people walking along the beach to affecting the surf break.

Cr Rachel Elder said experts appeared to be divided and she supported an experimental approach.

"We will find out which experts are right."

Cr Jim O’Malley doubted the experiment could be carried out cheaply, but he supported a trial.

Cr David Benson-Pope said expert advice had been unequivocally saying a groyne would not help, and if councillors overrode this and backed the groyne, this raised questions about their judgement.

The vote

The motion: That the council reinstate the St Clair groyne on a five-year trial basis.

For (5): Jules Radich, Andrew Whiley, Rachel Elder, Jim O’Malley, Carmen Houlahan.

Against (7): Aaron Hawkins, Steve Walker, Christine Garey, Marie Laufiso, Chris Staynes, David Benson-Pope, Mike Lord.

Abstention (1): Sophie Barker



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