Surfbreak Protection Society
Surfbreak Protection Society

SPS Appeals Lyttelton Port Company Dredging Consents

The Surfbreak Protection Society (SPS) has lodged an appeal with the Environment Court opposing the dredging of Lyttelton Harbour, with regard to the dredge disposal grounds not being monitored for adverse effects on the swell corridors* of Christchurch City’s surf breaks of Taylors Mistake, Sumner Bar, Sumner, and New Brighton.


photo courtesy of surf -forcast. com

In the technical documents provided by the Port there is no proposed adaptive management that first of all provides a baseline of surfing wave quality for a benchmark or guide should any adverse effects occur. The Environmental Monitoring and Management Plan (EMMP) Makes no mention at all of surfing or monitoring of surf breaks.

To dispose of the capital dredging spoil from the new channel, The Port have proposed a Capital Dredge disposal site nearly six kilometers off Banks Peninsular, in approximately 18 -21 meters of water that will accept some 18 million cubic meters of sediment.


While the one off capital dredge disposal site may have impacts on the city’s surf breaks that the surf breaks can recover from it is the view of SPS that cumulative effects from annual maintenance  dredging to be placed at a new maintenance disposal site just 2.25 kilometers from Godley Head, under 5 km from Taylors Mistake.

The new maintenance dredge disposal site indicated by the small box is to be 1.6 km by 1.6 km in diameter and will accept 900,000 cubic meters of sediment annually

The new maintenance dredge disposal site indicated by the small box is to be 1.6 km by 1.6 km in diameter and will accept 900,000 cubic meters of sediment annually


It is well established/known that seabed morphology (shape /depth of the sea floor) offshore of surf breaks ‘pre-conditions’ waves through the process of refraction/diffraction, and that offshore mounds can have a profound adverse impact/effect on surfing breaks.

In 2015 SPS received an avalanche of requests for help from Mount Maunganui /Papamoa surfers regarding adverse changes happening to their surfing beaches which are “filling up” with sand from the Port of Tauranga Capital and Maintenance dredging programs. Port Tauranga already had gained consents for their dredging program, and without major funding there is little SPS can do until those consents come up for review in June 2018.

SPS strive to engage early in Hearings processes so that we can lobby for the proper monitoring and adaptive management programs to be put in place, with trigger mechanisms that can identify early on, any negative impacts on surfing wave quality.

With Port Lyttelton, the current conditions imposed in the Decision cannot provide for an adequate adaptive management approach, or monitoring to avoid, remedy or mitigate the effects of the spoil disposal on the Surf Breaks and their surfing wave quality.

There is also the issue that Port Lyttelton are unable to give a reasonably accurate estimate of the amount of maintenance dredging  required to maintain the required channel depth. The amount cannot be accurately quantified because the causal mechanisms are unclear. LPC have proffered a figure of 900,000 m3/year.

So how can you put 900,000 m3 of spoil  in perspective? lets round the figure up to 1 million cubic meters of sediment, that is what fits into this artists concept, a square 100 meters by 100 meters. inside this football stadium.

Now imagine this amount of sediment placed in 18 to 21 meters of water, in the swell corridors of Christchurch surf beaches year after year, without any monitoring of the effects on Taylors, Sumner. or even New Brighton for that matter. what happens after 5, 10, or 15 years?


A representation of 1 million cubic meters volume

It is very disappointing that the same consultancy acting on behalf of Port Otago (MetOceans Ltd) failed to inform their new client – Lyttelton Port Company of what we successfully deliberated on in Otago.

MetOceans Ltd have also been engaged by the ports of Napier and Gisborne for those channel deepening projects. Those Ports also need to understand the very sensitive nature of what creates a surfable wave, and what is needed to protect them.

To quote from the Port Lyttelton Draft Environment Management and Monitoring Plan:

Adaptive Management

General adaptive management facilitates a continuous monitoring – evaluation – adjustment loop in which management responses are dictated by real-time monitoring and environmental conditions (refer Figure 1.1). The Central Dredging Association (CEDA) states:

“The need for integrating adaptive management into dredging projects is already becoming

recognised but will probably increase in future, in reaction to an ever growing awareness of the need
for protection of the environments as well as in connection to the ecosystem services approaches”
(CEDA, 2015)

SPS are encouraged that Port Lyttelton wish to seek a way forward in discussion with us, as SPS have already established the type of Adaptive management programs required to protect surf breaks with Port Otago and the surf breaks of Aramoana and Whareakeake.

* The Glossary of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement defines a surf break as:

“A natural feature that is comprised of swell, currents, water levels, seabed morphology, and wind. The hydrodynamic character of the ocean (swell, currents and water levels) combines with seabed morphology and winds to give rise to a ‘surfable wave’. A surf break includes the ‘swell corridor’ through which the swell travels, and the morphology of the seabed of that wave corridor, through to the point where waves created by the swell dissipate and become non-surfable. ‘Swell corridor’ means the region offshore of a surf break where ocean swell travels and transforms to a ‘surfable wave’.‘Surfable wave’ means a wave that can be caught and ridden by a surfer. Surfable waves have a wave breaking point that peels along the unbroken wave crest so that the surfer is propelled laterally along the wave crest.”


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  • Latest News
    • Dec 1, 2017

      SPS has written to Waikato Regional Council, the Minister of Conservation and other parties alerting the agencies to the instability of the Whangamata bar and estuary caused by the near monthly dredging of the Moana anu anu Confluence in order to provide all tide access to the marina built in 2008 – 2010.

      The Whangamata Bar is listed in schedule one of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement, where all adverse effects on the 17 listed surf breaks must be avoided.

      SPS assert that it is not appropriate for Waikato Regional Council to invoke plausible deniability while at the same time discouraging any further science to better understand the coastal processes of the Whangamata estuary and world famous surf break on the ebb tide delta.

      The Whangamata marina society originally misled the Crown at the Environment Court as to the amounts required to be dredged, and when the society were granted the construction consents, the society then gained new non notified consents from WRC for amounts 3 times greater than was originally accepted by the Environment Court.

      In 2012 SPS leveraged a dredging consent review from WRC due to the poor surfing wave quality on the bar soon after every dredge, The Bar never gets a chance to repair itself, as with every lunar cycle, a new dredge on the spring tide takes place.

      Incredibly, during the consent review WRC turned around and granted the marina society a new consent for a Lift and Drift method without accurate measure of what has been dredged, and without any monitoring conditions what so ever on the Whangamata Bar.

      Since 2013 SPS has conducted its own monitoring of the Whangamata ebb tide delta, and over the five years since the flawed WRC consent review, SPS have found a clear linkage between dredging events and the significant adverse effects on surf quality on the Whangamata Bar.

      With this letter WRC are now on notice to conduct their statutory obligations under the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010.

      WRC and its officers, the Thames Coromandel District Council, and the Whangamata Marina society all have a duty under section 17 of the RMA. Every person has a duty to avoid, remedy, or mitigate any adverse effect on the environment arising from an activity carried on by, or on behalf of the person…

      Our letter has put the above parties on notice and SPS expect that Policy 16 of the NZCPS will be upheld.

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    • Aug 14, 2017

      The Surfbreak Protection Society (SPS) has lodged an appeal against the Lyttelton Port of Christchurch Ltd (LPC ) capital dredging consents that would see up to 18 million cubic meters of sediment dredged from the shipping channel and placed in the swell corridors of Christchurch City’s surf breaks Taylors Mistake, Sumner Bar, Sumner and New Brighton, and cumulatively some 900,000 cubic meters of maintenance dredgings annually.

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    • Feb 8, 2017

      Press release: Another contaminated storm water overflow event at Lyall Bay, and Wellington City Council’s advice is:

      “Generally speaking 48 hours after heavy rainfall it’s usually wise to avoid swimming in the harbour or swimming around the south coast.”

      This is simply not good enough! In 2010 Wellington City Council gave us a promise that they prioritise works to resolve this unpleasant situation for beach goers. It seams that now the priority is a generous donation of more than $90 million to Infratil shareholders to build an airport extension that will do further harm to Lyall Bay’s surfbreaks. SPS are requesting Greater Wellington Regional Council review the consents granted in 2011 to allow WCC to continue discharges for another ten years in light of the consents are in breach of the New Zealand Coastal policy Statement 2010 in regard to the use and enjoyment of surf breaks

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    • Nov 21, 2016

      The Surfbreak Protection Society is urging other Wellington surfers who made submissions on the proposed extension to file their form under section 274 stating they would like to appear in the Environment Court and speak to their submissions. If you have not made a submission, SPS will consider tabling a witnessed affidavit to the Court on your behalf..

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    • Sep 30, 2016

      SPS has put three questions to the 40 mayoral and council candidates regarding WIAL’s all out assault on the Corner surf break and whether or not they support WIAL seeking the Corner’s removal for the sake of their seawall and extension. The questions we put were:

      1. WIAL are seeking to remove the Corner surf break from the proposed Natural Resources Plan so they can build a new seawall and promenade along Moa Point Rd. WIAL will need the support of WCC. If elected, will you support the removal of the Corner surf break for this project?

      2.Do you think it for the public good that Lyall Bay should suffer degraded surfing conditions, the demise of the Corner and Airport Rights surf breaks, for the sake of an airport extension and new promenade?

      3. Do you think WIAL should be obligated to rectify the damage to the Corner’s surfing wave quality, that they have caused over the last six to fifteen years?

      So far we have had 13 candidates respond

      If candidates do not respond by Sunday 1st of October SPS will take that as a “no comment”

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    • Sep 24, 2016

      – WIAL Telling Porkies –
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      Some surfers even think that WIAL will avoid any adverse effects on the Corner! Nothing could be further from the truth.

      WIAL are embarking on a campaign to eliminate the the Corner surf break conclusively from any protection that the GWRC Proposed Natural Resources Plan offers, WIAL thinks this level of protection is unwarranted, and adverse effects on Lyall Bay’s surf breaks should only be managed as an amenity value, essentially removing any recognition of surf breaks as a finite resource from the discussion .

      WIAL are even seeking to remove any controls over limiting the airport company’s ability to modify the Moa Point Rd Seawall, removing rules that would take into consideration impacts from seawall construction on our Corner surf break, as the airport company plans to build a new replacement seawall along Moa Point Rd.

      WIAL simply want the Corner gone, and the Surfbreak Protection Society is the thin blue line that remains in their way.

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