Vehicle access to Waikawa Beach is unlikely to be reinstated any time soon after the Waikawa River changed course in September.
Wind, weather and tide shifted the river from its usual course and cut off a route to the beach for vehicles and horses. Access has always been at the consent of the private land owner, who has in the past allowed people across the property.
As on previous occasions when nature has intervened, some Waikawa residents and visitors have taken to social media with complaints directed at the Waikawa Beach Residents Association (WRBA), Horowhenua District Council and the landowner. The residents association says in a newsletter threats have been made or implied.
Meantime, new tracks through the land have appeared, which have not been authorised by the landowner, and attempts have been made to circumvent the vehicle entrance.
While access for vehicles and horses from Manga Pirau Street is cut off, pedestrian access is still possible, although tricky.
Horowhenua District Council has placed concrete blocks across the beach end of Manga Pirau Street to prevent vehicles going through. That was in response to a request from the Miratana family, who own the private land the track crosses.
In its latest newsletter, the residents association says the Miratanas have had a long-standing legal agreement with the council that allows access on a single formed track that the council looks after. Part of that agreement was that no other track is to be created or used, otherwise all access may be revoked.
“Unfortunately people were using and extending a track that was created illegally a few years ago, jeopardising everyone’s access,” the newsletter says. “Vegetation was mowed – an act of trespass – creating an erosion hazard.
“Moreover, some in the community took it upon themselves to pile driftwood across the illegally cut track – an act not only of trespass, but that created a hazard.”
Unauthorised tracks upset the delicate coastal ecosystem and undo much of the good work locals and the council have been doing to look after the beach area. Council staff and volunteers recently planted 4000 spinifex at the beach to limit erosion.
The Miratanas have asked the council to secure the access for the time being so people can’t take vehicles through.
The association has also received complaints that it is trying to prevent vehicles from accessing the beach, and some people have claimed the landowners have granted access through other tracks. The association denies those claims.
And when Horowhenua District Council installed the concrete blocks on October 19, they clarified that the Miratanas had not given permission for other tracks to be used.
The council confirmed in a statement to the residents association that the blocks had been installed after a request from the owners of the land who the council says “have expressed deep concern that damage has been caused to the land and dunes by the creation of new tracks that have not been sanctioned by council or indeed the owners themselves”.
It says the illegal tracks will have a negative effect on the stability of the foreshore.
“It is entirely inappropriate for members of the community to take matters into their own hands and plough tracks through what is private land.”
Access through Manga Pirau Street won’t be reinstated until the river moves or is moved again, allowing for work on the track. One way to shift the river is by a river cut, which has been done in the past.
The council would have to get resource consent for the work. Cr Christine Mitchell advised the WBRA at a recent committee meeting that Horizons Regional Council had allowed the previous resource consent for river cuts to lapse. The Horowhenua council would now need to apply for another consent, which could take some time.
Horizons is also not able to alter the river during whitebaiting season (including some time before and after when whitebait fishing is permitted).
The WBRA is meantime lobbying both the district and regional council to urgently deal with the situation.