Latest update on Whangamata’s “Broken Bar” ( 20_11_12 )

Marina Society President

Mick Kelly Radio Interview 2009

Mick Kelly ;Umm, I don’t know how the hell you … One would put it right to be honest if ..umm ah our firm belief and our …or our advice is that there will be no effect on the bar…
….Collin; And obviously it’s you know, how long is a piece of string, I can understand that the answer to it is, but obviously what they are looking for is some sort of surety that umm .. and he also believes by the way that he felt that the fraternity of surfers would be well on the way to being appeased if the marina society said yes we will do everything in our power to put things right.
Mick : Well we certain.. okay I give.. I certainly give that assurance; we would do everything in our power to put things right, yes!

How the Whangamata Bar use to produce world class waves, with long peeling cylindrical barrels

Surfing conservation campaigner Paul Shanks riding good quality Whanga Bar pre marina


The Whangamata Bar is situated at the entrance to the Whangamata estuary, less than one kilometer downstream from the repetitive maintenance dredging for the new marina access channel.

The Whangamata Bar is known worldwide, and has been recognised from as early as the late 1950s as a premier surf location.

In the 1970′s the legendary Hawaiian Pipeline master surfer Gerry Lopez had described the Whangamata Bar as: “A  gem of the south Pacific,”

The Bar has featured in three (international) movies and numerous magazines since 1965.  It has produced a host of New Zealand surfing champions and surfboard manufacturers. The towns tourism industry has virtually been underwritten by the Whangamata Bar’s magic.

Surfers have noticed a degrading wave quality since the marina’s construction, and noticed a correlation with the almost bi – monthly dredging of the new access channel, and the corresponding hole in the Bar, which makes the waves go “fat” and fade into this subsequently deepening  hole.

The new access channel seen here marked by poles down toward the bottom right of the picture is dredged to a depth of more than two meters, the natural depth is only knee deep

When the channel is deep, so is the hole in the Bar. When the Channel is shallow, so is the hole in the Bar. hence the need to dredge for the big boats yet again. The surfers are the ones that lose out.

Instead of the fast peeling barrels surfers are now left with a short tubing section that then goes fat and fades into the hole as in the picture above

The Surfbreak Protection Society (SPS) had been informing the Waikato Regional Council (WRC) of the observed deteriorating surfing conditions since 2009.

In March 2012 At a meeting initiated by SPS with science provided, The WRC accepted that the Whangamata Bar is broken. WRC however assert that this may be due to some natural event and not necessarily attributable to the marina access channel dredging.

One of the conditions of the non notified maintenance dredging consent conditions is that WRC may call for a review of the consent if any adverse effects are observed on the environment two months either side of September 2012.

SPS had been requesting a review since the March meeting, but WRC stood by their guns and have simply stated more science is needed, not to mention that SPS had been introducing the need for surfing wave science be used to observe any potential adverse effects on the Bar since 2007.

Under the RMA, the marina developers were obligated to employ appropriately qualified people to monitor the Whanga Bar as part of the original marina consent conditions granted by the crown in 2006.

Due to concern that the WRC were not taking their obligations seriously, SPS started drafting a letter to the Hauraki Gulf forum, mindful that a local surfer was calling a meeting on May 6th 2012 regarding the degraded wave conditions on the Whanga Bar, the letter morphed into the Whangamata Bar Report to the Hauraki Gulf Forum.

The report was then passed on to the Environmental Defense Society (EDS), an organisation of RMA proffesional’s who offer legal advice and sometimes litigate over environmental issues like this.

EDS offered the Surfbreak Protection Society a prescription of legal remedies in a memo which SPS forwarded on to WRC with an accompanying letter if WRC did not accept the offer of an open and transparent EDS hosted workshop to discuss the degraded surfing conditions, and to seek positive outcomes for the Whangamata Bar.

After several requests for a response from WRC, and at the 11th hour, WRC decided to go for an internal review of the consent conditions, as originally called for by the Surfbreak Protection Society (SPS).

President of the SPS Paul Shanks received an email from Waikato Regional Council senior consents officer Christin Atchinson on 14 of September 2012 stating that the council had decided to review the consents stating that : “if you wish to provide further scientific information which may assist the review process, please do so.

An internal review gives the council some discretion over the terms of the review, and adjudication over the results of that review.

In other words, by proceeding down this track, under the RMA, WRC have the liberty of deciding what to do from the results of that review, which may not, or may. be in the best interests of the Whangamata Marina Society.

On the 27th of September the Chair of the Hauraki Gulf Forum John Tregidga sent a letter to The CEO of Waikato Regional Council Bob Laing  regarding the presentation made to the Forum (24 09 12) By members of SPS  on the Whangamata Bar Report. Mr Tregidga stated that the deterioration of the Bar is of concern to the Forum and noted that the  review of the consents and the offer by the Environmental Defence Society to host a workshop were welcome developments.

WRC CEO Bob Laing replied to John Tregidga in a letter on the 10 of October stating that

the aim of the review is to establish whether the marina dredging activities are the driving forces for the changes at the Whangamata surfbreak. We are currently seeking information from suitable professional’s to determine whether the marina  dredging activities significantly influence the changes occurring at the Whangamata Bar.”

An encouraging sign is that the Waikato University has partnered up with E Coast of Raglan ltd, to do numerical modelling of the Whangamata Beach and Bar. this is said to include measuring wave quality of the Bar. At this stage it is unknown (by me) whether WRC or the marina developers are contributing to this study.

This has all come about because of questions raised in the Whangamata Bar report it is unfortunate that the marina developers have ridiculed the document (generalised comments without any facts to back themselves up ) in the press ( ) and even more seriously that WRC spokesman Brent Sinclair stands behind the remarks made by the marina developers.

The last communications that the Surfbreak Protection Society had with WRC implied that the council were taking the report very seriously.

One can only hope in the interests of impartiality that Council spokesperson Brent Sinclair was either misquoted or speaking out of line.

The response in the article from the marina developers is a big dent to the credibility of that organisation regarding the undertaking given by their president to the surfing fraternity in the radio interview.

The Whangamata Bar Report can be read as a webpage here but for a quality format it is recommended that it be downloaded as a pdf file here

UPDATED 18 November –

With Regard to WRC Consents officer Christin Atchinson’s email on the 14th September requesting any further science, the Surfbreak Protection Society replied with a formal letter to her on the 23rd stating that :

“While the Surfbreak Protection Society (SPS) welcome this review, we must point out that a review would be rendered ineffective, unless the review included Surf science to monitor the Bar, as surfing was the reason for initiating the Whangamata Bar Report.”


“As mentioned in the report, SPS are attempting to raise funds for a camera monitoring system to observe the Whangamata Bar surfing wave characteristics, as prescribed by Dr Shaw Mead of eCoast Ltd.The camera monitoring system, once GPS mapped and located, then has the ability to 3-D model the waves as they break over the ebb tidal delta. This is the most cost effective method to measure the wave quality at the Whangamata Bar.”

The formal 23rd Oct SPS letter also had attached from  eCoast Ltd a costing. and stated that: We would also like to point out that in the granting of the original marina consent, costs of monitoring the Whangamata Bar fall on the Marina Society.

On Tuesday the 30th of October SPS received a brief email from Christin thanking SPS for our inquiry, stating that :

I have inquired with the Resource Information Group of WRC regarding your request for funding a Coast-Cam for the Whangamata Bar as part of environmental monitoring.

Unfortunately there is currently no budget allocated for funding your camera monitoring system. You may wish to request funding for this as part of our annual planning process.

UPDATED 20 November

With This brush off SPS on the 9th of November wrote a letter to the CEO of WRC reminding him of the consent holder’s obligation to monitor the Whangamata Bar. and that the marina developers are obliged to wear the costs, not the ratepayer.

The Surfbreak Protection Society are still awaiting a reply…

UPDATED 12 January 2013

The Surfbreak Protection Society still have not received a reply to the 9th of November letter to WRC CEO Bob Laing.


Whangamata marina owners breaching its consents

The Whangamata marina owners are in breach of the Waikato Coastal Plan and its resource consent conditions even while applying for new dredging –Lift and Drift consents, to dredge the new marina access channel, as pictured at the beginning of this post.

The marina owners have been using a modified plow like device to lift and let sand drift out on the outgoing tide, and are using a rule in the coastal plan to do this that allows for no more than 100 cu meters per month to be disturbed, The Whangamata Bar Report made estimates based on the device pictured below.


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