Ring-necked pheasants

Another bird that's hard to get photos of is the Ring-necked pheasant, even though there are loads of them round about. We especially appreciate their confirmation of earthquakes.

Ring-necked pheasant.

Ring-necked pheasant.

Ring-necked pheasant.

Ring-necked pheasant.

Hawks, kāhu

We have plenty of hawks around here, but it's not easy to get photos of them. My friend Jan Jordan managed to get these shots recently.

Kāhu on the lookout.

Kāhu on the lookout.

Kāhu in flight.

Kāhu in flight.

Native trees are suckers for E. Coli

Waikawa river has high levels of E. Coli, unlike the Waikawa Reserve site about 10 Km upstream. Between there and here the river flows through cow paddocks and past the shag colony. Now interesting research by Environmental Science and Research suggests that native trees could help.

Native trees could help clean up lakes and rivers and provide a solution to New Zealand's nitrogen and effluent problem.

Previous tests have shown E coli died off much faster under mānuka than under pasture, and significantly reduced the leaching of nitrate compared with pine trees and grass. …

Science leader of the ESR's biowaste team, Maria Gutierrez-Gines, said they did not know how it worked yet, but they thought the native root systems may release compounds that pathogens did not like, so they either died or did not grow.

Native plants put under microscope for E coli and effluent treatment | RNZ News

So there's something to keep in mind.

Rock, tide, sand

Many a kid has taken their bucket and spade to the beach and enthusiastically built a sand castle. The next day though usually ends in disappointment as the previous day’s efforts have been washed away by the tide. Sad, but a valuable life lesson perhaps.

River cut dam breached, from north bank looking south.

River cut dam breached, from north bank looking south.

When I was a kid I also read about the 3 little pigs: a big bad wolf blows down the first two pigs’ houses, made of straw and sticks respectively, but is unable to destroy the third pig’s house, made of bricks. Seems like maybe bricks are a pretty good building material.

Rock groyne 1993. Crown Copyright photo, cropped and zoomed.

Rock groyne 1993. Crown Copyright photo, cropped and zoomed. Look how long that rock groyne was in 1993!

Continuing the life lessons, at least one Bible verse (Matthew 7:24–27) found its way into my learning. The World English Bible puts it like this:

Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.

Of course there’s a deeper meaning, but the message about the impermanence of sand in the face of flood and wind is highly relevant.

This was the sand dam beside the rock groyne.

This was the sand dam beside the rock groyne.

On 28 June 2018 the Council did a River Cut to divert our river more directly out to sea, rather than running beside the coast eroding properties and blocking vehicle access to the beach from Manga Pirau Street.

It took them all day and they created a good-looking straight channel and sand dam. Less than 10 days later and that sand dam has breached. The river’s busy carving sand off the edges of the channel. High tide is due and I suspect that before tomorrow dawns all the human endeavour will be reverted by the known forces of nature.

Tides 20180708.

Tides 20180708.

Wind and swell 20180708.

Wind and swell 20180708.

A delightful beach interlude

Next week the Council is scheduled to do a River Cut — cutting a channel to send the river more directly out to sea. I believe they also plan to restore the vehicle access to the beach.

It’s been around 4 months now since the river shifted and blocked vehicle access. Occasionally vehicles have made it onto the beach, but by and large we’ve had a wonderful, quiet and easy time.

It’s been bliss to walk the dogs without looking over my shoulder all the time. It’s been so relaxing and, well, beach-like.

It’s my impression that the birds are more settled, and more numerous.

It’s been so good to see the driftwood stay where the sea has left it, to watch the sand building up around it.

The shellfish beds have had a chance to remain uncompressed and undisturbed too.

I love the way the river has created a large loop, providing plenty of spots for gulls to hang out. The other day a flock of maybe 30 arrived with much commotion, swooping down to the river, presumably fishing. Then they landed and sat in the shallow water. A few didn’t have solid sand underfoot and would drift sideways downstream with the current until they reached the end of the group, when they would fly back to their starting point.

It’s been a delightful interlude.

Strong wind, near high tide, wave warning.

Strong wind, near high tide, wave warning.

How will slower and wetter storms affect Waikawa Beach?

The globe’s hurricanes have seen a striking slowdown in their speed of movement across landscapes and seascapes over the past 65 years, a finding that suggests rising rainfall and storm-surge risks …

Slower-moving storms will rain more over a given area, batter that area longer with their winds and pile up more water ahead of them as they approach shorelines, said Jim Kossin, a scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the study’s author.

Hurricanes are traveling more slowly — which makes them even more dangerous - The Washington Post

Slower wetter storms.

The percentages show how much tropical cyclones have slowed in those regions in the past 70 years. Local tropical cyclone rainfall totals would be expected to increase by the same percentage because of the slowing alone. Increases in rainfall because of warming global temperatures would compound these local rainfall totals even further. (NOAA/NCEI)

In February 2018 Waikawa Beach was affected by the remains of Tropical Cyclone Gita, which eroded the coast, especially by the river mouth. Of course any storm loads up the river and adds to our high groundwater. That 15% slowdown in our region is likely to make problems with erosion, river levels and ground water worse. It could be good news for our rainwater tanks though.

The study quoted above goes on to talk about the impact of climate change on storms too:

…it is expected that hurricanes will rain about 7 to 10 percent more per degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) of warming, as the atmosphere retains more water vapor, Kossin explained. …

These two trends ought to work in tandem to make today’s storms much worse rainmakers.

Beach photos, April 2018

With no to few vehicles on the beach these days things feel very relaxed. It’s also my impression that the beach is having a chance to be its natural self. It seems to be changing in ways I can’t quite identify, but it feels as though it’s recovering or coming back.

I wanted to share some photos I’ve taken recently on the beach. They show off the variety of interesting things there are to be found and sights to be seen.

Ram’s horn - squid buoyancy device.

Ram’s horn - squid buoyancy device.

Shell.

Shell.

Portuguese man o' war.

Portuguese man o' war.

Shell.

Shell.

White faced heron and black backed gull.

White faced heron and black backed gull.

Pied stilts.

Pied stilts.

Shags.

Shags.

Blue and white shell.

Blue and white shell.

Shells, not a sheep's head.

Shells, not a sheep's head.

Kayaker in the late afternoon.

Kayaker in the late afternoon.

Driftwood.

Driftwood.

Terns.

Terns.

Kelp.

Kelp.

River rocks.

River rocks.

River and beach.

River and beach.

Photos from a drone

A professional operator with his own DJI Inspire v1 drone visited recently and took a few photos of our property and the area nearby. I was very lucky that he did this as a favour, so I wasn't hit with the fee you'd expect for a professional photo shoot. The following 15 second video shows the drone taking off from our yard.

[embed][youtu.be/BhoQ9AlfS...](https://youtu.be/BhoQ9AlfS-A)[/embed]

Blair flew the drone at various heights, including the maximum allowed 120 metres.

I was so excited to finally see our area from above (Google Maps is good, but this is better).

We live in a land of lakes around here, with ancient wetlands all up and down this coast. There are two small, privately owned and unnamed lakes at the end of Strathnaver Drive. To our east, behind some trees, is Lake Huritini. To our South is Lake Waiorongomai, and closer to the coast is another privately owned lake at the end of Reay Mackay Grove.

Lake Waiorongomai and unnamed private lake.

Lake Waiorongomai, about 1 Km away, and private lake closer to the sea. Kāpiti Island about 20 Km away in the distance.

Lake Huritini.

Lake Huritini about 1 Km away.

Strathnaver Drive and Waikawa Beach village.

Strathnaver Drive and looking North to the village, about 800 metres away.

Lakes at the end of Strathnaver Drive, and the estuary.

Centre: private lakes, river mouth, right: village.

Many thanks to Blair, who visits Waikawa Beach from time to time.

Flounder and mullet on a high tide

It was about high tide when I took the dogs to the beach on this stunning Good Friday morning.

Some folks were floundering and had a good catch of both flounder and mullet.

The estuary was full: it was a 3.5 metre tide.

The sand dune by the north track is looking more and more beaten up.

The sand dune by the north track is looking more and more beaten up.

The estuary was full.

The estuary was full.

I keep wondering how much longer it will be till sea and river encroach on this low-lying land.

I keep wondering how much longer it will be till sea and river encroach on this low-lying land.

These folks were fishing in the shallows with a net.

These folks were fishing in the shallows with a net.

They caught several flounder and a couple of mullet.

They caught several flounder and a couple of mullet.

Feet, flounder and mullet.

Feet, flounder and mullet.

Water, water, everywhere

See the previous posts in this series: What we have and what we need in February 2018 and Why more houses here? Those posts looked at what we currently have and what we need, and what the Council plans with regard to rezoning land for additional housing. My opinion is that their plans are flawed and will destroy what is unique to our community and threaten our environment.

This post is a bit long. If you don't want to read it all, jump to my conclusion.

Page 12 of the Infrastructure Strategy (PDF, 3MB) document says:

To promote growth in the District, Council has planned various new water and wastewater schemes for communities not currently served.

That includes us.

Page 13 of that document goes on to say:

In the long term it is expected climate change will have two principal impacts on the Horowhenua District — an increased risk from severe natural hazards, and a gradual change in environmental conditions such as rainfall and tide levels.

Over the next 40 years it is expected … heavy rain will become more frequent, and average rainfall will increase.

A study by Horizons Regional Council shows there is likely to be an impact within the next 30 to 50 years on coastal areas, from a combination of rising tides and coastal erosion. Areas of land in Waitārere, Waikawa and Foxton Beaches have been predicted to be at risk from storm surge and inundation.

Actually, we don't need to wait 40 years to see the coastal erosion that has already removed metres of sand from some properties and eaten our vehicle entrance. The Waikawa Beach Ratepayers Association has been talking to the Council about these issues for years now.

Warning 1 metre drop eroded foreshore.

WARNING 1 metre drop Eroded foreshore. Goodbye vehicle entrance, thanks to ex TC Gita in February 2018.

But that's not really the water we need to talk about in this blog post, except to say the Council should be putting more funding into dealing with coastal erosion. The water we're talking about is drinking water, waste water and storm water.

Water supply restrictions are common in Horowhenua.

Water supply restrictions are common in Horowhenua.

The data we have

Here are some key things the Council say in their planning documents, especially the Infrastructure Strategy document:

  1. A considerable amount of development occurred 60-70 years ago (pre-amalgamations), meaning the District has old and aging infrastructure. … Over the next 30 years the District will need to proactively replace many assets as they reach the end of their useful life. (Page 5)
  2. Does the infrastructure create effects or impacts that erode the quality of our natural environment? Does the method of maintaining or constructing this infrastructure have local or global impacts environmentally, socially or economically? (Page 6)
  3. Sustainable infrastructure solutions should: promote the efficient and effective use of resources; … avoid, mitigate and remedy any adverse effect on the environment; and promote the creation of liveable communities with a sense of place and identity. (Page 6)
  4. With new schemes come additional costs to ratepayers and there is a risk around rates affordability becoming an issue for Horowhenua’s ageing population. (Page 12)
  5. Council has historically fallen short in the level of renewals required to keep networks in appropriate condition and performance levels. (Page 13)
  6. The backlog of about $22.5 million for the water supply network has been adjusted equally over the planning period of 30 years. A further issue is increasing restrictions on the water source under Horizons Regional Council’s One Plan. The One Plan also seeks to make Council and the Community increasingly conscious of the amount of water being used and to lower the rates of unauthorised or wasteful water use. (Page 18)
  7. An infrequent and irregular rainfall pattern over the last year has posed issues for the water supply schemes. Council issued “boil water notices” to various schemes during times of heavy rainfall which caused high turbidity in raw water. Similarly, during dry periods Council has issued “conserve water notices” for various water supply schemes. Council has identified the risk of long dry periods and raw water availability for the District and hence will explore options of identifying a new raw water source and a storage reservoir. The high level cost of which are $35million and about $100million. These costs are not part of the current financial strategy. Council will first explore the options available for new raw water source and a storage reservoir and also understand the cost implications and then look for funding options. (Page 18)
  8. Drinking Water Waikawa Beach Preferred Option: Investigation and design of proposed new water supply schemes. Year 1-3 $76,840
    Construction for both existing settlements and growth areas. Year 10-16 $7,975,460
    There will be water supply network upgrade requirements at Levin and Foxton Beach to service growth areas. Year 1-12 $6,973,500. (Page 20)
  9. The operating expense in the first 20 years is about $199 million and 30 years about $372 million. The increase in operating costs is largely because of servicing loan repayments for the proposed new water supply schemes. (Page 21)
  10. Waste Water Waikawa Beach Preferred Option: Investigation and design of proposed new wastewater supply schemes. Year 1-3 $76,840
    Construction for both existing settlements and growth areas. Year 10-16 $9,840,887
    There will be wastewater supply network upgrade requirements at Levin to service growth areas. Year 1-4 $7,075,762. (Page 27)
  11. The quality of freshwater in streams, river systems and water catchments in general are affected by runoff, erosion and wastewater effluent disposal both within the District and from outside it. Stormwater systems and runoff need to be considered within the whole catchment. (Page 32)
  12. The District’s road network has historically had insufficient maintenance and renewal spending. Funding for surface renewals and basic maintenance now needs to increase to reduce the forward pressure on basic levels of service. (Page 37)

Whew! Really, you should read the whole thing.

Purchasing and Maintaining Assets.

Purchasing and Maintaining Assets.

The water situation

To sum up the costs though:

  1. the current infrastructure is old and has been neglected. It needs to be upgraded at quite some cost.
  2. a sufficient supply of water is already problematic and Council plans to investigate new water sources and a storage reservoir. Both are costly and the costs haven't been included in the current financial strategy.
  3. new water and wastewater (and stormwater) infrastructure is planned for Waikawa Beach and other locations. Adding new locations affects current treatment infrastructure which in turn will need to be upgraded, at additional cost.
  4. all those costs will lead the Council to take on more debt, will flow on to rates and the increasing number of older people in the district may find such rates increases problematic.

To be even more brief: the Council face huge costs to maintain what they've already got which can't cope with current water demand. Now they want to go into debt and increase our rates to give us infrastructure whose purpose is not to make our lives better but to attract new people to live here.

To sum up the other points:

  1. The Council needs to consider environmental, social and economic impacts of infrastructure.
  2. They also need to consider sustainability, being efficient and effective, protecting the environment and promoting the creation of liveable communities with a sense of place and identity.
  3. The quality of freshwater in streams, river systems and water catchments in general are affected by runoff, erosion and wastewater effluent disposal.

What we are and what we have

Here at Waikawa Beach we have a very liveable community with a clear sense of place and identity. The water in our river is of very poor quality, often with a level of E. Coli which makes it unsafe to swim in. Our water issues are to do with river water quality and coastal erosion.

Most people already at Waikawa Beach capture rainwater for domestic use, and some use bore water exclusively, or to supplement their water needs.

It could be argued that the type of people who come to Waikawa Beach, who make up its community, are the type of people who are happy to rely on rain and bore water (and for that matter on septic tanks for waste water). Enticing people to live here with reticulated water will draw a different type of people, changing our community and our identity.

It's an essential part of our nature to be a quirky little beach settlement where we live closely with nature. We use the water which drops freely from the sky, and send it back onto the land.

The septic tank gets a tune up.

The septic tank gets a tune up.

Why replace a perfectly good system with a costly and inferior system?

Why would we want to take part in a scheme which captures water from an insufficient source, treats it with harsh chemicals, pipes it across the countryside and delivers it in insufficient quantities to our properties, while ignoring what is in abundance around us?

And why, either set up sewage ponds near us or pipe sewage across the countryside to a treatment plant, when we already deal with sewage effectively and efficiently and in an environmentally friendly way?

Where will those pipes go? Will the Council take farmland, or will it dig up our narrow road to install pipes?

The Council has a history of not sufficiently maintaining its water infrastructure. Why would we think that will change?

Why does the Council want to increase its debt, burdening future generations, to supply something that is not needed?

How is it better to drain one source of water to supply many people than to make use of the many sources (rainfall on roofs) which exist where the people are?

The first flush diverter on the wall of the house takes out detritus between roof and tank.

The first flush diverter on the wall of the house takes out detritus between roof and tank.

My conclusion

The Council has clearly stated it wants to provide infrastructure we haven't asked for in order to attract more people to our settlement and to rezone open space around us to house them.

I believe that this plan would change the character of our settlement and threaten our environment.

I reject the notion that settlements should be enlarged and instead suggest the idea of creating new settlements, thus spreading out the effects of adding more people. That would also allow each settlement to retain or create its own character, giving people more option for the type of place they'd like to live in.

We already enjoy an ample supply of fresh water, sourced locally, and treat our own waste in situ. Creating a system of pipes and plant to deliver an inferior supply and create a waste problem either locally or elsewhere is inappropriate.

The additional costs imposed by such new infrastructure are unwelcome and likely to be a burden for most people, not just the older portion of the population.

How I think we should respond to the Plan

I believe we should reject the plans to rezone land around our settlement, reject the plans for new infrastructure here and suggest the option of creating additional settlements where people will provide their own drinking water and waste treatment options (such as septic tanks).

Why more houses here?

See the first post in this series: What we have and what we need in February 2018.

Forecasts suggest that Horowhenua will experience considerable population growth in the next couple of decades. The Council have to make plans to deal with that. Their preferred option (as far as Waikawa Beach is concerned) is to rezone land around our village so it can provide more housing. See the map below.

Draft residential growth at Waikawa Beach.

Draft residential growth at Waikawa Beach.

We know this because of the Horowhenua District Council's 2018-38 Long Term Plan, along with several associated documents and the Horowhenua Growth Strategy 2040.

There's a lot of information to absorb from those two documents and the half dozen associated documents.

I've spent a few hours now reading, highlighting (and, I admit, sometimes skimming) all the documents. I've spent more hours pondering. There are, of course, many things we should look at, such as what the Council will spend their money on, and whether they should close facilities such as community halls.

But there are just three items in the Plan that are of pressing importance for us at Waikawa Beach, not because we're asking for them but because the Council are interested in creating growth in our little corner of Horowhenua:

  1. More houses.
  2. Drinking water on tap.
  3. Waste water disposal.

More houses

In this post I want to highlight a few points about More houses. In other posts I'll look at the water issues.

The Council believes that the new Expressways will push growth in the southern parts of the district and so it has turned its attention to Waikawa Beach, Manakau and others. The map above shows their thinking on where more houses could go around Waikawa Beach if they change the zoning.

Waikawa Beach Road tsunami line.

Waikawa Beach Road tsunami line.

The one road

We have a single road connecting us to SH1. That road is a bit narrow and has several sections where floods may occur, along with some bends that require caution. By the way: in talking to the roading folks at the Council the Waikawa Beach Ratepayers Association has learned that the road is standard width. What we don't have though for most of it is a shoulder. We do have often soggy grass verges.

It feels narrow.

We also share it with farm vehicles, milk tankers, people towing loaded trailers or horse floats, and assorted trades vehicles, especially when there's house building going on.

Additional land allocated for housing will increase the traffic, both temporarily while building is going on, and in the long-term with additional residents and visitors.

By the way, about those soggy grass verges: The Council's Infrastructure document, Page 13 tells us:

In the long term it is expected climate change will have two principal impacts on the Horowhenua District — an increased risk from severe natural hazards, and a gradual change in environmental conditions such as rainfall and tide levels.

Over the next 40 years it is expected … enhanced westerly winds will occur, heavy rain will become more frequent, and average rainfall will increase.

Our road is already at risk of flooding after big rain. More rain will increase the flood risk and make those verges even soggier.

Why make settlements bigger?

Why here? In fact, my question is: why are Council looking at enlarging our existing settlement, rather than setting up a new settlement nearby. While looking at maps it seems, for example, that there is land between Whakahoro Road and Kuku Beach Road that isn't zoned as Versatile Land (that means 'the good stuff where things grow') and which doesn't appear to be Māori Land. That's just an example.

I can understand adding houses on the edges of places like Levin where there is already infrastructure such as pipes and whatnot. But we don't have much here at the moment. Council plans on providing us with drinking water and wastewater disposal in order to promote growth.

Why not set up a new, separate settlement and provide those things there?

I'll talk more about water in another post, although it's hard to separate it from the housing issue.

Adding houses to Waikawa Beach adds pressure to this little spot: more people, more traffic, more risk for kids biking along our streets, more trades vehicles, more pressure on our aquifer. Our sleepy backwater will become more wakeful and watchful, noisier and busier.

More people means more 'services', more streetlights and house lights to damage our dark skies, more houses taking land away from frogs, birds, insects and horses and farm animals.

Why not set up a new settlement nearby, reducing those pressures and spreading the population load?

I could make the same point for all the other settlements the Council plans to enlarge: Manakau, Ōhau, Waitārere Beach, Foxton and others. There is a fundamental assumption that existing settlements should be enlarged, on some inevitable path from village to town to city.

Why not create additional settlements, spreading the load on the environment, on roads and other services, and giving people the quality of life that comes with quiet small communities?

My emphasis in the quote below:

Mayor Michael Feyen said the draft Growth Strategy looks out to 2040 and it will guide decisions about where and how to accommodate growth while maintaining our unique character and protecting our environment.

Let those who prefer to live in a town, with all that towns have to offer, choose a town to live in. Let those seeking the quiet life choose that. We have a unique character in Waikawa Beach and a rich environment. Let us maintain and preserve that.

Sunrise.

I take a break from writing and step outside where the dawn is beginning. The last stars are fading from the sky. I hear geese, ducks, magpies and a rooster, our neighbourhood pheasant, along with the sea. The air smells … clean. I chose to live here, leaving behind the sounds of the city with its endless sirens, cars roaring, and the views into the kitchen windows of neighbours.

Housing locations

The Council's plan is to rezone areas right beside the village and also in a strip roughly between Walkers Lane and Strathnaver Drive.

Page 39 of the Draft Horowhenua Growth Strategy 2040 says:

In identifying these options, land that is subject to flooding or ponding has been avoided.

I don't know where they derived their information, but most of the Strathnaver Drive portion is still more or less wetland, liable to ponding in wet weather. Certainly spontaneous lakes developed and stayed for months during our very wet 2017. As it says above: average rainfall will increase.

The spontaneous 2017 lake behind Uxbridge Terrace.

Part of the spontaneous 2017 lake behind Uxbridge Terrace.

The strip between Walkers Lane and Strathnaver Drive is an official low-fly aircraft training zone. Helicopters and fixed wing planes are forever buzzing the area. It's a strange idea to think of adding houses within the zone. In 2017 one helicopter crashed in that area, falling onto farmland. It's a good thing there wasn't a house beneath it.

I note too that the Waikawa Beach Ratepayers Association successfully fought development perviously on the block of farmland excluded from the blue shaded area on the Council's plan, but which is currently for sale and listed as subdividable.

So, in summary:

  • More houses here will add pressure to our road.
  • More houses will add pressure to our precious environment.
  • At least some of the potential new housing zones are unsuitable because of factors such as flooding and low-flying aircraft.
  • Why concentrate population in singular locations rather than setting up new, small, settlements a few kilometres away?
  • A larger population with additional services threatens our unique character as a small, sleepy, quiet beach community.
  • Remember: the Council want to create growth in our spot and intend to have us pay for water services and increase our rates in order to attract more people to live here. I'll say that again: the Council want us to pay to bring more people here.

In my next post I'll look at issues around water: Water, water, everywhere.

What we have and what we need in February 2018

Waikawa Beach is a wonderful place to live in and to visit. It offers a quiet little ‘backwater’, free from commerce and busyness. It’s literally at the end of the road, and it’s nothing like the cities and towns within an hour’s, or even 15 minutes, drive. It’s a place to wind down, live simply, enjoy nature.

Dunes reflected in water.

Waikawa Beach provides a bounty of fresh air, peace and quiet, dark skies, insects, birds, frogs and fish, along with cows, horses, alpacas, sheep, and, unfortunately, rabbits, hedgehogs, weasels, flies, wasps and low-flying aircraft. There’s a spacious and seemingly endless beach to enjoy, with good fishing and room for everyone to walk, ride their horse or bike and explore.

Horses and boat at the estuary.

Horses and boat at the estuary.

It's a place where we collect our own drinking water from rain on the roof, or perhaps from a bore, and where septic tanks, or perhaps composting toilets, deal with waste.

The Council gives us a road in and sealed streets, a few streetlights (not too many, thank goodness), and water tanks filled and ready for firefighting.

There's an aging public toilet block with changing rooms, and a footbridge over the river.

They do a bit of roadside maintenance and sometimes trim the walking tracks to the beach. There are three dog poop bag dispensers, and half a dozen rubbish bins that are emptied regularly. A handful of signs (those that survive the folks who remove them) round out our services.

As properties go, there are a couple of empty sections in the village, and a few more on the Strathnaver side, but we're pretty much full up.

We're a relaxed beach community with some funny little baches or camping spots, a few million dollar houses and a spread of everything else between. People bike down the middle of the road, avoiding the neighbours congregated for a chat, horses and quad bikes occupy the verges, and we don't have footpaths, because who needs them?

I have no data, but I suspect those who live or visit here do so exactly because we're a quiet little backwater with a hint of self-sufficiency. If they wanted all that towns and cities offer they'd go to Levin or perhaps Waitārere Beach.

Our issues

There are annoyances to life here, of course, but below are the things that I believe to be actual, meaningful issues we face.

900 am on 22 February 2018 vehicle entrance at Waikawa Beach.

9:00 am on 22 February 2018 vehicle entrance at Waikawa Beach. A crumbling cliff of sand with a drop of 1 to 2 metres into the river.

  1. Coastal erosion. Ex-TC Gita, in February 2018, took several more metres of sand from properties around the beach end of Manga Pirau Street, wiping out the seaward end of the beach entrance. The erosion is ongoing though, and is especially bad with each severe storm or river flood.
  2. Sick river water. Summer monitoring of our river by Horizons, consistently shows that our river water has elevated levels of E. Coli bacteria. This is bad for human beings and dogs who would like to enjoy recreation in, on and around the water. I have no data, but suspect the degraded river is also detrimental to whitebait, eels and fish.
  3. Access to Levin, Ōtaki and Wellington are poor. For example, in early 2018 the road to Levin was closed in both directions for several hours after an accident. There is no alternative route. There is no effective public transport. There is a single early morning train each weekday to Wellington which returns late afternoon. That’s an inflexible schedule that doesn’t suit many. The road to Wellington often suffers delays, especially around Ōtaki. This might improve once the various Expressways are complete.
  4. Access to emergency services is poor. Palmerston North and Wellington hospitals are both distant. If we have a fire it could take 20 minutes or more for the Fire Service to arrive.
  5. Electricity supply isn’t consistent, with not uncommon power cuts ranging from a few moments to a few hours each.
  6. Cellphone coverage is spotty. Parts of Waikawa Beach have problems with connections. Some people complain that their Internet connection is poor.
  7. Our public toilets need an upgrade.

Some of these issues have no easy answer. Some involve multiple parties. But these are the things we're concerned about.

See my next post: Why more houses here?

A word about rainwater tanks

Waikawa Beach doesn’t have town water, so everyone uses either or both of rainwater, collected from the roof, or bore water. In our case, we have a bore, but it’s rich in iron and not suitable for household use. It’s great for watering the garden though.

When you rely on water collected from the roof you’re very aware of rainfall — both amount and frequency. After a period of drought, as we’ve had in late 2017 and early 2018, every drop of rain is welcomed.

We have what must be a roughly 20,000 litre tank that collects water from our nearly 70 square metre roof.

Rainwater collection tank.

Rainwater collection tank.

For every 1 millimetre of rain we can collect around 65 litres of water.

As a guide to collection capacity, consider that each 1mm of rain = 1 Litre (L) of water per square metre (m2) of roof area, then allow a 15% wastage factor. — Roof surface & area | Rain Harvesting.

So, with a roughly 20,000 litre tank and let’s say 65 square metres of roof space, we need around 310 millimetres of rain to completely fill the tank.

What about water quality?

Radio New Zealand’s Our Changing World said:

Further research into various physical methods for collecting clean roof water showed that a first flush diverter was the single most effective way of maintaining good water quality. The first flush diverter diverts the first 50 to 100 litres of water collected during a rain event, ensuring that contaminants don’t make it into the tank.

It works like this: the first rain in any spell washes bird poop, sand, leaves and whatnot off the roof, down the main pipe and into the flushing tank where it accumulates. The debris falls to the bottom and a plastic ball floats on the surface. When the water reaches the top of the flushing tank the ball blocks the pipe and any additional rainfall goes back out the secondary pipe at the side and into the main storage tank.

The first flush diverter connected to the downpipe captures dirt and debris, keeping it out of the rainwater tank.

The first flush diverter connected to the downpipe captures dirt and debris, keeping it out of the rainwater tank.

Meanwhile, the water collected in the flushing tank slowly drips out through a tiny hole in a small disc at the top of a small pipe at the bottom, draining the tank so it’s ready to collect more debris in the next fall of rain.

From time to time you need to clean the filter inside the first flush diverter, to keep the system operating smoothly. These before and after shots show why.

Cleaning the first flush diverter filter - before.

Cleaning the first flush diverter filter — before.

Cleaning the first flush diverter filter - after.

Cleaning the first flush diverter filter — after.

How much water do we use?

This is a tricky question and I don’t know a good answer for measuring it precisely. Perhaps there’s a meter of some kind that can be installed between tank and house? I’d love something that could send to my smartphone via an app and alert me to high usage. (Something to investigate …)

Meanwhile, Kāpiti District Council include guidance on their water rates bills for residents there. A friend sent this screenshot:

Water use guidance.

Water use guidance.

In our case, we have a 2 person household. We try to conserve water and we don’t need to use rainwater for the garden. It’s reasonable to think we may use around 400 litres per day.

That would mean our 20,000 litre tank would last 50 days without refills. It’d probably be safer to reckon on 40 days as water is drawn from above the bottom of the tank to avoid sucking sediment into the system. That gives us around 6 weeks of water from a full tank.

Luckily, here at Waikawa Beach, we have AquaGold to top up our tank if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

Aqua Gold.

Aqua Gold.

Water tank fill.

Water tank fill.

Horowhenua District Council have recently mentioned in passing perhaps connecting Waikawa Beach up to the reticulated water supply (at a huge cost in rates). As far as I’m concerned, that’s a No Thanks.

Horowhenua District Council summer water restrictions.

Horowhenua District Council summer water restrictions.

Meeting the Kawau, Pied Shags by the bridge

Today this novice kayaker braved the reach just north of the footbridge — a 20 minute paddle upstream from the vehicle entrance.

I went as far as the Pied Shag colony, wrangling kayak, paddle and waterproof camera and trying to not drift into the tangle of trees where the birds roost.

Several birds were standing around on low branches, just above the water, and amazingly they didn’t move as I floated near. I could just about have reached out and touched some of them. As NZ Birds Online says:

Unlike most other shag species, the pied shag is reasonably confiding, allowing close approach when roosting or nesting in trees.

Luckily those living nearby seem to tolerate the birds. Although the shags could be implicated in the frequently high E. Coli levels as measured at the footbridge, I think most locals wouldn’t want to see them go from our river.

During the recent population expansion in central New Zealand, pied shags have established colonies in trees adjacent to peoples’ homes. The noise and smell of such colonies has resulted in a few nesting trees being felled.

With the birds so close, and staying put, I was able to grab several photos I’m willing to put on the site here. Maybe one day I’ll be able to sort settings out on my camera so the background blurs more. All those tree branches make quite a complicated background for the birds.

Kawau, Pied Shags.

Kawau, Pied Shags.

What you talkin bout, Willis? What you talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?

kawau-pied-shags-02.jpg

Kawau pied shags 03

kawau-pied-shags-04.jpg

Matuku Moana, White-faced Heron

Matuku Moana, White-faced Heron on Waikawa Stream.

A kayak’s great: you can get quite close. It’s a bit tricky though, taking photos while trying to hold the kayak steady and not drift into things. Exposure and composition are both a bit off …

White-faced Heron, Matuku Moana.

White-faced Heron, Matuku Moana.

White-faced Heron, Matuku Moana.

White-faced Heron, Matuku Moana.

White-faced Heron, Matuku Moana.

White-faced Heron, Matuku Moana.

Red river blues

Whichever way you drive along State Highway 1 to Waikawa Beach Road you must cross one of the two streams that feed into our river. A tad south of The Greenery garden centre you cross the Waiauti Stream, fed by two or more streams that flow down through farmland from the foothills behind South Manakau.

If you're driving south then you cross the Waikawa Stream, sourced in the foothills behind North Manakau. Before it flows under the road it passes through Waikawa Reserve, a popular camping spot.

These streams come together just west of Whakahoro Road (west of Takapu Road) and flow as one down to our footbridge in the village and then out to sea.

Waikawa streams merge.

Waikawa streams merge west of Takapu Road.

I've discovered all this by studying Google maps. If you have better information, feel free to share.

The river at the footbridge and below has long been a popular spot for swimming, kayaking, paddling and general cooling off on a hot summer's day.

Paddleboarding on a hot day.

Paddleboarding on a hot day.

But in recent years regular summer water quality testing by Horizons Regional Council has made it clear that's a somewhat risky thing to do. The quality of the water in our river is definitely not what it should be or what we want it to be.

3 years water quality monitoring results.

3 years water quality monitoring results.

Look at all that red and orange! What we want is green all the time.

Of course, sadly, we're not alone. Rivers all around New Zealand are polluted.

But the folks by the Hutt River are doing something about their toxic algae problem, as NIWA explains: Summer Series 2017 — Citizen scientists take on Hutt River.

A group of volunteers who love the Hutt River are helping to care for it over summer.

… a small group of citizen scientists [who will] wade into the river every Monday around noon for the next few months to look at rocks, measure water temperature and visual clarity, collect a water sample for E. coli testing and count the amount of rubbish.

… NIWA freshwater ecologist Dr Amanda Valois regards them [the group] as being at the front line of assessing the health of the river. …

At the beginning of summer, supported by GWRC environmental monitoring staff, Dr Valois shows the group how to take the measurements, helping them set up the equipment and encouraging them as they grapple with unfamiliar equipment.

She has a particular interest in citizen science and wants to support people to determine if waterways are healthy enough to swim in. Over the past few months defining “swimmability” has proved difficult. But Dr Valois is determined to make it easier to understand.

“Scientists measure bacteria or periphyton to determine swimmability. But when I go swimming I look at how much rubbish is around, whether the water is dirty or brown or the flow is low. For me a swimmable river is clear and fast flowing. For others there may be different values.”

I think that's very inspiring! Isn't it something that could happen here too? Anyone like to step up and be an organiser? How about it, beach lovers?