Erosion monitoring doesn't include dump site area

Alan and Deen McKay have been battling the council over the erosion of Colac Foreshore Rd. Photo:...
Alan and Deen McKay have been battling the council over the erosion of Colac Foreshore Rd. Photo: Matthew Rosenberg/LDR
A crumbling coastal road in rural Southland is being monitored for erosion, but the council in charge has not collected aerial data on what some residents say is its most perilous section.

Colac Bay/Ōraka’s disintegrating foreshore road has drawn the ire of locals in recent years after erosion forced a partial closure, diverting traffic back out to the main road.

But the situation has reached something of a stalemate, with the Southland District Council effectively ruling out a repair job.

Past and present residents are also concerned an old dump site directly behind the road is home to toxic waste including herbicides, oil and car batteries.

Now, a lack of aerial monitoring of the erosion in front of the dumpsite has upset nearby resident Deen McKay - a vocal critic of the council throughout the saga.

Under its coastal permit, the council has been required to monitor erosion at Colac Bay/Ōraka on an annual basis since 2019, and aerial photos were taken last year and this year.

However, when Local Democracy Reporting obtained the photos, the results did not include the area where the road was disintegrating in front of the dump site.

Colac Bay/Ōraka’s erosion issues are being aerially monitored with annual drone shots. Photo:...
Colac Bay/Ōraka’s erosion issues are being aerially monitored with annual drone shots. Photo: Southland District Council
A council spokesman said that section had been omitted from the monitoring because it did not include a rock wall, which was a requirement.

But McKay said that reason was "ludicrous".

"The thing is, it’ll close the bay. People are so complacent, they’re just not aware of it.

"Once the sea gets into the wetland area... each tidal action will just erode more of the soft broom that’s left until it reaches the main dump site.

"And then it’s going to be too late. They’ll have no chance in hell to contain it whatsoever."

He believed monitoring should have been done to prepare for a worst-case scenario because data on erosion would help prepare for containment.

Southland Mayor Gary Tong said how far monitoring should continue along the stretch of coast was a difficult decision and the erosion was obvious to everyone.

On Wednesday, Mr Tong confirmed that a consent process was under way to install four piezometers at the site, but did not think the council would have more information on what it was dealing with at the old dump site until at least the new year.

The goal of the exercise was to test for contaminants in the water, he said.

The monitoring does not include a section of the road in front of an old dump site. Photo:...
The monitoring does not include a section of the road in front of an old dump site. Photo: Southland District Council/Supplied
The mayor also maintained the dump site was located a substantial distance from the road and was not of immediate concern.

While aerial monitoring had not been conducted at the site, other forms of monitoring had been undertaken.

"It would take a major storm event to encroach there," Tong said.

"I don’t want to minimise the situation, but there would be more risk to the residents of Colac Bay than there would be to the dump if it went in even 10 metres. If it encroached 10m there, then Colac Bay would be ... munted."

The land in question is owned by the Ōraka Aparima Rūnaka, which has declined to speak to media about the situation.

Southland District Council services and assets group manager Matt Russell said three assessments of the landfill had been undertaken, in 2003, 2005 and 2012, which deemed the site to be low risk.

Colac Foreshore Rd has been closed since late 2015 after being damaged by tides.

Colac Bay/Ōraka is home to multiple marine species, including Hector’s dolphins - one of the world’s smallest dolphins.

matthew.rosenberg@odt.co.nz

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