Report into erosion of sandhills expected in July

A long-running investigation into shoring up Dunedin's defences against the sea is finally about to reach the decision stage.

Since huge storms ripped into the sandhills at St Clair and Middle Beaches in 2007, the council has been working to develop a plan to deal with the issue.

Dunedin City Council parks and reserves team leader Martin Thompson said a report with recommendations was expected in late July.

In 2007, storms caused major damage and uncovered the "sand sausages", which are large sandbags laid at the toe of dunes at St Clair to stop erosion. The community was outraged when these were vandalised.

Among other works, sand was taken from the Otago Harbour and dumped near Middle Beach to help shore up the dunes, and Reno mattresses made of steel mesh cages filled with rocks were placed at the foot of the dunes.

Four long-term options were identified at the time to fix the problem: build something substantial like sand sausages or a wall; recontour the slope of the sand hills, possibly using up Kettle Park; renourish the beach with sand from elsewhere permanently; and reduce the energy of the waves by building an artificial reef. Work on a long-term management plan to deal with beach erosion has been under way since that time, with hearings in 2008 gathering 49 submissions suggesting everything from accepting the eventual inundation of Kettle Park to a managed retreat from properties in the St Kilda area.

A council update last year said data collection and research into different aspects of the beaches was continuing, although it was taking more time than hoped.

The council has a $400,000 budget to deal with the problems until a longer-term solution is found, but at the moment no money has been set aside for the next financial year, or for a long-term fix.

Mr Thompson said the project team considering the matter had been meeting regularly recently, and planned to report back to the community development committee on July 27.

Councillors would be briefed next month.

After they had decided which recommendation they supported, the issue would go out for consultation.

Mr Thompson said everything from sediment studies to renourishment options for sand at the beaches had been investigated, and there had been more work to study a former landfill site at Kettle Park.

One of the more important studies examined offshore and onshore currents on the coast.

"Most of those studies are complete," Mr Thompson said.

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