8 Ruakaka North - alternative vehicular beach access

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1 43 8 Ruakaka North - alternative vehicular beach access Reporting officer: Shireen Munday (Policy & Bylaws Analyst) Date of meeting: 16 December Purpose The purpose of this report is for Council to decide on an alternative vehicular access location on Ruakaka North beach. 2 Recommendation 1. That Whangarei District Council approve the location of a new vehicle access way to Ruakaka North Beach at Rama Road (Option 3 B). 2. That Whangarei District Council notes that staff will work in conjunction with the Department of Conservation and Northland Regional Council to complete the design work for the access track and obtain all associated consents and permits prior to beginning construction of the access track. 3 Executive summary There is a long history of community concern regarding human and vehicle conflict and associated safety issues on Ruakaka Beach. The Vehicles on Beaches Bylaw 2009 (the bylaw) provides a safe zone in the vicinity of the Ruakaka Surf Life Saving Club south of the Ruakaka River. Due to the only existing vehicle access for the beach north of the river being opposite the Ruakaka Racecourse, Council was unable to implement a safe zone in the vicinity of the Ruakaka Village without restricting all vehicles from the northern portion of the beach. Council directed staff to research the establishment of alternative vehicle access points north of Ruakaka Village to be able to review the safe zones of the bylaw. Two alternative access points have been researched and developed for Council s consideration. This report contains a staff recommendation that an access point off the end of Rama Road is developed in conjunction with the Department of Conservation and Northland Regional Council. Whangarei District Council 1 16 December 2015

2 44 4 Background In the years leading up to 2009, the Bream Bay community and others raised concerns about the frequency of vehicle use on the District s beaches. Issues raised included excessive and dangerous use of vehicles, concern for amenity values and environmental and wildlife protection concerns. In particular, the Ruakaka community was concerned about safety issues at two popular locations; the beach in front of the Ruakaka Surf Life Saving Club and the beach in front of the Ruakaka village north of the Ruakaka River. As a result of these concerns, Council made the Vehicles on Beaches Bylaw in November 2009, which created a safe zone in the vicinity of the Ruakaka Surf Life Saving Club, south of the Ruakaka River mouth. The implementation of this safety zone has gone well. Consideration was also given to the creation of a second safe zone in front of the Ruakaka Village north of the river mouth at that time. However, the only vehicular access point for the beach north of the river is located south of the Ruakaka Village at the Ruakaka Racecourse. This access point is not a formally constructed or authorised access point but a dune blowout that has historically been used to access the beach area. Council determined to proceed with the bylaw with the single safe zone, but also determined to research possible alternative access points to allow for a review of the bylaw safe zones in the future. Council staff have been working on identifying a potential suitable alternative vehicle access point since Since then Council has been updated on the progress and issues of the project via a number of workshops and potential options have been outlined. Three final possible options for consideration have now been identified which now form the discussion of this report. It is noted here that this report has not provided any analysis or discussion on a possible new safe zone in the vicinity of the Ruakaka Village in relation to the proposal. This analysis and discussion will be included in the project to review the Vehicles on Beaches Bylaw, which is anticipated to commence in mid This timing will allow for a potential amended bylaw to be finalised after public consultation and prior to the summer 2016/2017 season. 5 Discussion Staff have researched and reviewed three options for alternative vehicle access points to Ruakaka Beach north of the Ruakaka Village location (Attachment 4 map of Ruakaka North Beach). The land adjacent to the beach is largely either privately owned or under the control of the Department of Conservation (DOC). Some small portions are also under the control of Whangarei District Council (WDC), usually by way of a road reserve. The research undertaken focused on creating alternative access points through land either under the control of WDC or under the control of DOC. Staff of both organisations have been working together on the project. Northland Regional Council (NRC) has a long history with the establishment of the Vehicles on Beaches Bylaw and has an interest in the project in relation to its responsibilities in the Coastal Marine Area (CMA). As such NRC staff also joined the working group. In addition to land ownership considerations, there are important environmental issues that inform suitable alternative options. Whangarei District Council 2 16 December 2015

3 45 With dune access design, a range of factors must be considered. These include angling the access to prevent wind funneling, using a flexible and adjustable ramp surface (if one is to be used), provision to periodically manage sand levels at the access point, appropriate (re)- planting of native dunefield species (including potential restoration of nearby denuded areas) and protection measures for replanted areas (including fencing and signage). The design must also be configured so that it can be removed or adjusted in the event of exceptional beach changes as may happen over time. Accordingly, landscape architecture and coastal dynamics advice was commissioned and the associated issue of what type of access should be constructed has been raised with Council at previous workshops. Feedback and discussions to date have indicated that any new beach access should be of a minimalist design to protect the dune environment and soft, e.g., appropriate for four wheel drive (4WD) and all terrain vehicles (ATV) only. This type of design may also mean that the access way may be unusable for a period of time after a storm due to beach lowering. This would be consistent with the type of access currently provided at the Ruakaka Surf Life Saving Club and at Tip Road, Uretiti. Analysis undertaken regarding the types of vehicles using the beach area over the 2014/2015 summer period has shown that, during the data collection period, of a total of 894 vehicle movements to and from Ruakaka Beach, 871 were 4WDs, ATVs or tractors. This indicates that the majority of existing beach users will be able to continue accessing the beach using a new soft designed access point. Only 8 two wheel drive car movements were detected, with half of those requiring help for removal. This section provides an outline of each of the options developed and assessed. It is noted here that the option of closing the entire Ruakaka Beach north of the river mouth was not included in the options, as historically this has not been considered a viable option to progress at this time. Option 1 Status Quo The first option would be to retain the status quo. That is the existing vehicle access point would remain located at Ruakaka Racecourse and no new access point would be constructed. The outcome of this option would be that concerns regarding the safety of people in the vicinity of the Ruakaka Village and also the protection of wildlife in the northern portion of the Ruakaka Wildlife Refuge would not be able to be addressed through an amendment to the Vehicles on Beaches bylaw without restricting access on the entire beach area north of the Ruakaka River mouth. Sand blocking the road access to the race course would also remain an ongoing issue. Option 2 Vehicle access immediately north of Ruakaka Village Two different options have been assessed at this location. Option 2A is to further develop the existing pedestrian access to the beach in the vicinity of the carparking area adjacent to the NIWA facility (opposite the end of Ruakanohi Street). The land between the car park and the beach is owned by the Crown and was initially considered to be under the control of DOC. Further research established that the land is held by the Office of Treaty Settlements (OTS) and is land banked for those purposes (#968). WDC and DOC staff have undertaken detailed research on whether this land can be made available for an access track, by way of an agreement for an easement by the OTS as well as associated Iwi consents. Three Iwi have an interest in the land in question. Whangarei District Council 3 16 December 2015

4 46 Assistance from the Whangarei Member of Parliament was sought on a possible solution and staff have been further liaising with relevant Wellington central government departments on the issue. As a result of this work, it is considered that reaching an agreement between all relevant parties would be a lengthy process with no guarantee of achieving the overall goal of the project. Option 2B is to access the beach in the same vicinity at Option 2A, but to locate the access way on the WDC controlled road reserve that contains Te Kamo Street, which is adjacent to the Coastal Marine Area (CMA) of the beach. A concept design based on this option was presented to the community at a public meeting held at the Ruakaka Recreation Centre in December Feedback obtained at that time showed the community has strong concerns regarding the proposal, both for environmental reasons as well as community safety and noise concerns given the access points close proximity to the village. A key issue raised was the potential for conflict between vehicles and pedestrians accessing the beach at the same point. Option 3 Vehicle access track at Rama Road The third option is an access track via the WDC controlled road reserve at Rama Road, adjacent to the Carter Holt Harvey plant. The road reserve is currently sealed to a point just east of the plant entrance but runs all the way to the beach through the DOC Poupouwhenua Scenic Reserve adjacent to the beach. Discussions have been held with relevant DOC and NRC staff on this option. Option 3A is to create the access entirely within the WDC road reserve. However this raised considerable environmental concerns, due to the impact of the work on the fore dune area at that point, which is considered stable and reasonably intact (Attachment 1). Further investigation has shown there is a dune blowout approximately 275 metres north of the road reserve and that this is currently used informally as a vehicle access to the beach, utilising the Ruakaka Pipeline Track to access the blowout from the road reserve. To minimise the environmental impact of the construction of the access track, Option 3B was developed in conjunction with NRC and DOC. This would create an access way that would divert from Rama Road through the adjacent DOC reserve, either through a new track or using the existing pipeline track to then access the beach either directly where the existing blowout is or within the immediate vicinity subject to final engineering and design recommendations (Attachment 2). The working group has discussed Option 3 with Refining New Zealand, Vector and the Patuharakeke Trust Board. Refining New Zealand and Vector have no specific concerns regarding Option 3 and consider it may be beneficial in managing the current unauthorised usage of the pipeline track to access a number of dune blowouts along the beach. Patuharakeke Trust Board are not in favour of Option 3A due to the environmental impacts incurred but are in support of the Option 3B utilising the existing blowout area. In light of the feedback received from the community regarding Option 2, it is considered that an access point that is located away from residential activity and any pedestrian access points to the beach will alleviate those concerns raised regarding potential pedestrian and vehicle conflicts and provide a longer term solution for the community. Whangarei District Council 4 16 December 2015

5 47 Further work to finalise the design for Option 3B is needed, including final design/construction details and obtaining resources consents which are likely to be required from both WDC and NRC. Liaison will also be required with Vector and Refining NZ regarding the use of, or crossing, the pipeline track and any required design aspects to ensure the track does not adversely impact on the pipeline as well as any associated permits. Summary of Options Table 1 below summarises the options available together with their associated advantages and disadvantages. Option Advantages Disadvantages 1. Status Quo No change for existing vehicular beach users No costs to WDC 2A. OTS controlled land adjacent to NIWA 2B. Te Kamo Road Relatively simple construction. Short distance through the dune field. Fewer residents directly affected than an access point from Te Kamo Road. Is situated in a part of the beach with lower natural character and a high measure of dune degradation, so new development will have less impact on those values. Current access is in a poor state, difficult and dangerous to use. Potential liability issues for agencies. Perpetuates the process of dune field degradation and issues with sand being blown onto the racecourse access road. Future risk of the access being closed. No resolution for the existing conflict between vehicles and beach users. Vehicles would still be able to access the Wildlife Refuge and impact on nesting, feeding and roosting birds. Three Iwi have an interest in this land. Reaching agreement for its release would be a lengthy process and it is unlikely to get all relevant parties to agree to a vehicle entrance construction. Close proximity to NIWA who have not been consulted. Difficult construction. Difficult to maintain highly dependent on integrity of dune vegetation for durability. Crosses pedestrian access. Will impact on local residents and nearby properties. In close proximity of a heavily used section of the beach. Strongy opposed by local community. Whangarei District Council 5 16 December 2015

6 48 Option Advantages Disadvantages 3A. Rama Road road reserve only 3B. Rama Road & DOC Poupou whenua Scenic Reserve Paper road already exists as a legal corridor. Would simplify the management of the existing paper road/access, including construction options limiting the current unauthorised vehicular access in the surrounding vulnerable dune area. No residential area in vicinity so reduced risk of pedestrian/vehicle conflict. Located away from other pedestrian beach access points. As above. Creating a beach access utilising the existing track and the fore dune blowout would cause little extra damage. A new adjacent track and cut through the dune crest could create a superior gradient and the existing blowout could be repaired. Preferred option of Patuharakeke Trust Board and key stakeholders. Considerable damage incurred to break through the fore dune which is stable and reasonably intact. Dune crest is elevated and complex. Considerable length required through the back dune making it difficult to keep vehicles within the defined corridor. Consenting likely to be challenging due to the level of fresh adverse effects in a reasonably intact area. The legal road alignment is not related to the natural contour or fore dune profile. Considerable length required through back dune, making it difficult to keep vehicles within the defined corridor, although use of rocks could be used to manage this. Situated at a more dynamic end of the beach. Staff recommendation In assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the options presented, staff recommend proceeding with option 3B. It is considered that the issues highlighted in this report, together with the summarised advantages and disadvantages of each, indicate this option is the most feasible of all options presented. Additionally it is the preferred option for all members of the working group as well as the key stakeholders, in particular the Patuharakeke Trust Board. Ruakaka Racecourse access closure Should Council determine to proceed with the recommended option, this will allow for the closure of the Ruakaka Racecourse vehicle access point. The closure of the access point is supported by all working group members as well as the Ruakaka Racecourse (Whangarei Racing Club Inc) and the wider Ruakaka community. The works to be undertaken include repairing the existing blowout and creating a car park and pedestrian access point to the north of the blowout (Attachment 3). This work will be included in the overall implementation project for the new access point and will be completed once the new access point has been established. The Whangarei Racing Club Inc has confirmed that it is prepared to move its gate entrance in the vicinity of the proposed car park if necessary to accommodate a better overall outcome of the dune restoration aspect of the works. Whangarei District Council 6 16 December 2015

7 49 6 Considerations Financial/budget considerations Funding for the project, which includes contributions from DOC, as well as plants and planting activities from NRC for the dune rehabilitation aspects, has already been confirmed. WDC s contribution was included in the 2015 Long Term Plan for the 2015/2016 year. The budget for the work was based on Option 2 being implemented. Initial feedback on Option 3B is that because of the anticipated difference in construction and engineering required this option may be able to be achieved at a lesser cost than the current budgeted cost. Policy and planning implications Any new access point construction at Ruakaka Beach is likely to attract resource consent requirements from both WDC and NRC due to the nature and location of the work. WDC consents staff have advised that the site is within Coastal Hazard 1 and 2 and any earthworks on sand dune complexes require a discretionary activity resource consent. The design, construction and works will also have to align with any requirements of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement. Design and engineering work will have to be completed prior to consent applications being made. DOC staff will also complete an assessment for the work to be undertaken on the DOC controlled land of the project to ensure compliance with relevant reserve management bylaw in place on the reserve, as well as any other compliance and/or authorisation requirements. Risks The risk associated with the preferred option is that one or both of the resource consent applications and/or the consents and permits required from DOC, New Zealand Refining and Vector are not approved. This is considered a minor risk given the discussions held with key stakeholders to date and the support expressed for the preferred option. 7 Significance and Engagement Significance The decisions or matters of this report do not trigger the significance criteria outlined in Council s Significance and Engagement Policy. Engagement Due to the community interest in the proposed alternative access and the previous consultation activities undertaken, it is proposed to hold a public meeting in mid February 2016 at the Ruakaka Recreation Centre. The purpose of the meeting will be to inform the community of Council s decision regarding the alternative access location and the associated anticipated project timeframes. Attachments 1. End of Rama Road at beach intersection 2. Options for beach access off Rama Road 3. Ruakaka Racecourse access closure design 4. Map of Ruakaka North Beach Whangarei District Council 7 16 December 2015

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9 Date Printed: 12 November Ruakaka - Marsden Point: Proposed Beach Access off Rama Road Legend SCALE 1: 6, Projection: NZGD_2000_New_Zealand_Transverse_Mercator Kilometers This map is a user generated static output from an Internet mapping site and is for reference only. Data layers that appear on this map may or may not be accurate, current, or otherwise reliable. THIS MAP IS NOT TO BE USED FOR NAVIGATION

10 52 0 ET 25 SC 50 m E R R CECO RSE PE ER SNE RO D m 5m PE ER E SN RO m 12 3 D m KEY NOTES with provision for camper vans to seaward 8 Path surface left as sand side. 9 Very solid concrete or steel bollards Beach access limited to pedestrians and well at 1.2m crs to prevent quads passing. defined (but not so heavily as to compromise 10 Wheelstops secured on piles or similar. dunefield character). 11 Parking bays founded on quarry run or Possible light structure to define access to granular brown rock overlaid with sand and beach and protect vulnerable foredune face. grassed to promote free drainage. Will require Narrow existing track to 1.5m and plant 12 regrading of verge to racecourse side and up margins. Some localised regarding required. to 500mm of fill to larger seaward bays. Filter entry with bollard. Define edges with low Sign illustrating dune process, wildlife issues post and rope barrier or similar to keep people and general beach care message using NRC within corridor. sign template as a starting point SC 10 m E E Y ESS R CECO RSE RES OR ON ND NEW C RP R Ref 1114 C BreamBay ccess Attach ment 3 3 Possible shift of racecourse gates to adjacent to new carpark to secure southern balance of road frontage to dunes 5 Regrade berm to remove accumulated sand and make easier to mow. Retrieved sand to go to base of dune blowout repair (kikuyu) 6 Fill, consolidate and grade blowout and adjacent areas to match profile of undamaged 7 dune. Salvage vegetation to replant. Plant all remaining areas to match natural composition. Ongoing management required Roadside parking bays to take 12 vehicles, 5 1

11 Ruakaka North Beach 53 P r i n t D a 7 t e / 1: 2 / P r i n t T i m1 1 e : 2 0 A M Scale: 1:38591 Original Sheet Size A3 P r o j e c t i o n N: Z G D / N e w Z e a l a n d T r a n s v e r s e M e r c a t o r B o u n d s : , , T h e i n f o r m a t i o n p r o v i d e d o n t h i s w e b s i t e i s i n t e n d e d t o b e g e n e r a l i n f o r m a t i o n o n l y. W h a n g a r e i D i s t r i c t C o u n c i l d o e s n o t a c c e p t a n y r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r c o n t e n t a n d s h a l l n o t b e r e s p o n s i b l e f a n d e x c l u d e s a l l l i a b i l i t y ; w i t h r e l a t i o n t o a n y c l a i m s w h a t s o e v e r a r i s i n g f r o m t h e u s e o f t h i s s i t e a n d d a t a h e U s e o f t h i s i n f o r m a t i o n i s i n c o n j u n c t i o n w i t h t h e G I S C o n d i t i o n s o f U s e.