The partial removal of Mount Maunganui’s artificial reef is being welcomed as a smart move forward with calls the $1.5m project is both “disappointing and embarrassing” and a “white elephant”.
Bay of Plenty Regional Council announced on Wednesday the artificial reef, 250m offshore from the Tay Street/Marine Parade corner, will be partially removed as soon as possible.
Friends of the Reef former chairman Grant Dyson believes the decision comes as no surprise but remains disappointed and embarrassed the project never lived up to its huge billing of providing world-class waves.
“We did have great hopes for it. We did present it as not entirely as a surfing project, but as a reef you could paddle out to and dive it. In essence it was supposed to provide a great surfing wave and it just never did.
“I think there were excuses made by the company. We talked about new technology never really tried and I just don’t think all the theory translated into reality.”
Designed by Raglan based company ASR, the sandbag structure concept has also been sold around the world, including Britain, where there are also problems.
Though Friends of the Reef doesn’t exist anymore, it was instrumental in promoting the artificial reefs benefits helping secure the $1.5 million fundraising needed – including TECT’s 250,000, $200,000 from Pub Charity, and Bay Trust’s $80,000.
Positive community interest was also widespread with Mount Mainstreet, Mount Progressive Association and Sport Bay of Plenty included in the lengthy list.
“It has to be said too that ASR’s reef’s elsewhere in the world have been similarly very underwhelming if not a failure too. So I do think the company has some questions that it should be fronting up to,” says Grant.
The decision to remove part of the reef follows a review recommending the reef structure be removed in a staged process.
Removing the largest geotextile containers at a cost of about $60,000 would likely eliminate health and safety and environmental issues, the review said.
Mount Lifeguard Service general manager Glenn Bradley agrees the reef is “a bit of a white elephant” having never functioned as intended and creating more headaches than success stories.
He feels the manmade structure exacerbates rips and holes in the area forcing lifeguards from both the club and Omanu Surf Lifesaving Club to keep a closer eye on the potentially dangerous area.
“Partially removing it is a good step. We would ultimately want to see it completely removed but until we understand how they are partially removing it, its pretty difficult.”
Omanu Surf Life Saving Club director Mike Swan says during the recent summer months the two clubs have undertaken some assessment of patrolling in front of the reef for the need for a permanent patrol – something the removal might prevent.
“If it’s not going to work there is no point having it there. I have got to say the guys who put it in have a trail of failures around the world,” says Mike.
“I’m an avid surfer and would like nothing more to have seen a quality break there and it would have done wonders for tourism, but if it isn’t right let’s not leave it there.”
Surfing New Zealand spokesperson Ben Kennings says it will be business as usual for annual surfing events held at Tay Street despite the move to a pre-artificial state.
“No it’s fine, the break is fine without the reef and when they take the reef away we will probably find it will change the banks back to pre-artificial reef was good,” says Ben.
“During events kids end up surfing on either side so it can become a hazard in some ways if it’s big.”