Surfbreak Protection Society
Surfbreak Protection Society
Aramoana – Whareakeake

19th December 2013

SPS is happy to have found mutual understanding with Port Otago Ltd and its shareholder Otago regional Council over the best practice to avoid adverse effects on Aramoana Spit and Whareakake surfbreaks from the depositing of  dredge spoil at the nearshore dump sites , with our Environment Court mediation settlement.


The Council Hearing decision released on July 17 was clearly inadequate in our view of avoiding adverse effects on the two surfbreaks, and the proposed adaptive management plan would have been unable to establish a baseline for comparison if (or when) adverse effects on surfing wave quality became apparent

During lengthy discussion the committee focused on three core questions:

Do our science advisers come to the same conclusion, and what would they recommend as a robust adaptive management plan to avoid adverse effects?

Can our legal team identify that we have a strong case, and on what grounds should we proceed?

The final question was to ourselves and our society’s constitution and objectives – after scientific advice confirming that adverse effects were more than likely to arise and cautious yet affirmative legal advice (our legal team rested the final decision on scientific advice as to whether we should proceed).

SPS decided that we had to take legal action as the evidence before us was that the named surfbreaks were more than likely to degrade with the newly granted consent conditions.


Our committee relied wholly on the scientific and legal consultation given, and how that advice is interpreted and applied to our constitution and its objectives.

Environment Court mediation was engaged on the 2nd of December and once Dr Shaw Mead and our legal advisor Scott Grieve had articulated how surfing wave quality could be irreversibly damaged unless the correct monitoring regime with a baseline study that followed dredge deposit amounts that resembled that of the previous ten years and identifying trigger points, Port Otago and the Otago Regional Council appreciated what was needed.

The mediation concluded with a successful outcome, which resulted in restricting dredge disposal to a total volume which is in line with the past 10 year of disposal (200,000 m3) for the first 12 months of the consent, with Aramoana being limited to 35,000 m3 (although it expected that less than this will be disposed of at this site) and 175,000 m3 at Heyward, with a maximum of 200,000 m3 at all sites, including Shelly Beach (maximum of 35,000 m3).

Whareakeake camera

During this 12 month period, wave quality data will be collected at the 2 sites using remote video systems, which will effectively allow for the establishment of baseline wave quality data.  In the following 2 years of the consent, impacts on the breaks due to increased disposal (maximum 450,000 m3) can be compared to the baseline data to determine changes to wave quality, positive or negative.

We believe that the Ports desire to protect the surfbreaks has always been genuine, it was really a matter of introducing the relatively new science discipline of measuring surfing wave quality to the applicants.

Port Otago Ltd’s continued commitment to ensure that the Nationally Significant surfing breaks are protected for future generations is greatly appreciated, and the outcome is a positive step towards surfbreak protection.  SPS and the South Coast Boardriders will be represented on POL’s working party, which meets every 6 months and will continue to be involved with the monitoring and management of Aramoana and Whareakeake, two of Aotearoa’s Nationally Significant surfbreaks. The Environment Court Mediated settlement can be downloaded here.


Aramoana presentation and video goes down well at the hearings of submissions on the resource consent application by Port Otago to increase dredging and spoil dumping volumes in the vicinity of the nationally significant Aramoana Spit surfbreak (see NZCPS). The Aramoana hearings continued today in earnest. Nic Reeves of Surfbreak Protection presented our evidence to the committee including a must see video that includes some sick surfing footage (see below).

Link to Sep 2011 submission to read or download, click here.

Nic’s presentation at the hearing earlier this year was well received. A measure of her success was the lengthy questioning by the committee after she had finished. The panel tried to trip Nic up on many points but she brought them back to the NZCPS policies 16 & 13 (surfbreak policy), and capped it off with Policy 3 – Precautionary Approach, which was the nail in the coffin, as the consensus was that effects are yet unknown.

Nic also set them straight with regards to the port claims that the spoil mound improved the wave and ceasing dumping would lower the quality, which is “not correct”. Conclusions by Port Experts that there would be no discernible difference in the quality of the Surfable wave at The Spit were called out due to the lack of modelling for cumulative effects of the existing dump sites and the proposed AO site.

Nic educated them on what made the Aramoana Spit wave so special and set it apart from any other wave at a local surfbreak or beach. It is important for authorities to understand that although we have thousands of kilometres of coastline with waves breaking at the shore in almost every spot, that it takes a special and delicate balance of physical characteristics to form a high quality surfable wave. Film fooatge of skilled surfing and visually impressive photographs assisted the panels understanding of this phenomenon and why it should be protected.


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