August 5, 2008

Public Warned to Stay Off Fragile Sand Dunes


BEACH users are being warned to stay away from eroding sand dunes and hanging stairways along New Plymouth's waterfront.

New Plymouth District Council acting parks manager Trevor Hornby says many people are excited about the stormy weather, but he warns them to stay away from the danger zones.

"The last thing we want is for someone to be buried under collapsing sand -- especially if that someone is a child -- so we're asking parents to keep an eye on their children at the beach and for everyone to keep a healthy distance from the sand dunes," he said.

Dunes along the coastal walkway have been carved out, leaving sheer walls of sand, and causing danger to the public.

"Once the sand dries out, these vertical faces will be prone to collapse," Mr Hornby said.

A set of steps now leading to nowhere has been closed off between the Fitzroy and East End surf lifesaving clubs. The stairs are hanging two metres above the beach after strong seas almost ripped them from the sand dunes.

Dog-walkers, joggers, parents with prams and fishermen using the walkway yesterday were enjoying the thrill of the thumping waves.

Many were amazed at the power of the Tasman Sea, which has turned the coastline into a jumble of washed-up tyres, household rubbish, jandals, driftwood and huge logs, some up to 10 metres long.

Among the stormwatchers was New Plymouth resident Mary Tipler, who was "impressed with Mother Nature".

"It's just awesome. I haven't ever seen the seas this rough. It makes you realise how insignificant we are."

Another resident, Jan Gamlin, was worried about the amount of household rubbish left scattered along the shore.

"It's really horrible to see non- natural things that have come from the sea -- it's just a mess," she said.

New Plymouth's Crystal Hughes was out taking photos of the waves.

"It's pretty cool -- really wild, but quite dangerous. There's a lot of stuff floating around in the water," she said.

A group of English teachers from China was also snapping photos of the high seas. Shi Chong from Lianyungang was impressed with Taranaki's wild west coast.

"It's quite fantastic. It's the first time I've come to New Zealand and it's more stormy than back home," he said.

Fellow teacher Li Xue Song was mesmerised by the large swells.

Meanwhile, Mr Hornby says once the weather has settled council staff will evaluate the eroded and damaged areas of the beach to see if anything can be done to remove hazards to the public. The clean- up of the coastline will also begin then.

* Rosalyn Macdonald is an AUT journalism student.

(c) 2008 Daily News; New Plymouth, New Zealand. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.