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Cyclone Gabrielle: Sand returns to Ahuriri beach

Sand once again stretches across Ahuriri beach.

Posted on February 27, 2023

Napier locals have noticed that, for the first time in a while, sand has returned to Ahuriri beach as a result of Cyclone Gabrielle.

What has historically been steep shingle and rocks is now a notable stretch of finer looking sand.

While the sand is far from what would be seen on some of the North Island’s most popular beaches, many Napier locals still expressed their surprise online.

Commenters on the Hawke’s Bay Photographs Facebook page, where photos of the sandy beach were first posted, recalled times when this was normality. Many claim the beach changed after Napier Port began to dredge shipping channels.

Others said they were glad that the much of the harsh shingle and stone had gone.

Ahuriri resident Jennifer Whyman was out on the beach last Tuesday with a large black trash bag, picking up onions, fruit, and other debris that had washed ashore.

Whyman said she ventured down to the shoreline to keep her local beach clean and to prevent odours.

“We need to keep it special,” she said.

Sand on the beach was not something Whyman had ever seen before.

“I hope it stays, I wonder where it has come from,” she said.

Dog walkers were also present on the beach, as well as a couple of sunbathers.

Ahuriri beach last Tuesday looking towards Perfume Point.

Hawke’s Bay historian Michael Fowler’s writings on the nearby Westshore beach and breakwater harbour area detail how engineers and locals had been concerned about erosion as early as 1894.

Debris had begun to accumulate, and coastal erosion was rife. After years of trying to find solutions, the 1931 Hawke’s Bay Earthquake caused the land to rise 1.8 metres and created a sandy beach at Westshore.

Conditions have changed numerous times since then, as the land around Ahuriri continued to be redeveloped and port operations increased.

While a sandy beach may pose a perfect opportunity for a swim, experts say Cyclone Gabrielle can still pose serious health risks.

“All swim spots in Hawke’s Bay have high or very high risk of contamination. Do not swim in areas impacted by floodwater,” a statement from Land Air Water Aotearoa (LAWA) said.

A rāhui is also in place in areas of Hawke’s Bay, with fishing, recreational activities and gathering kaimoana prohibited.

“Mana Whenua have extended the rāhui from Te Whanga a Ruawharo – Hawkes Bay to include the coastline all the way north to the Mohaka River and set it for two weeks from 19 February,” a Facebook post from the Mana Ahuriri Trust said.

“The rāhui – a ban on fishing and kaimoana gathering – also includes recreational activities.”


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