The Department of Conservation (DOC) says more rocks and debris have fallen from Cathedral Cove’s famous arch, with the latest damage thought to have occurred on Monday.
DOC says it is the latest in a series of rockfalls and landslides around the cove and its adjacent bays, which were heavily impacted by last summer’s extreme weather events including Cyclone Gabrielle.
DOC Coromandel Operations Manager, Nick Kelly says the most recent rockfall has seen approximately two cubic metres of material fall to the beach below the arch.
The debris field from the rockfall measures six metres by four metres.
Mr Kelly says although DOC has closed tracks to the beach, his staff are aware people continue to disregard warnings and are putting themselves at risk by venturing to the cove on foot.
“We’re really concerned people are not heeding the warnings,” he says.
“We’ve consistently said the tracks are closed and there is a danger of rockfall at the beach which could lead to injury.
“I can’t stress this enough – please do not use the tracks, and do not stand or walk under the arch.”
Earlier this month, DOC announced it had received a Landslide Risk Assessment Report for the site. After reviewing the report, and setting it against its own visitor safety framework, it announced damaged tracks would not be reinstated this summer.
Landing at the cove from the adjacent Te Whanganui a Hei Marine Reserve can resume in coming weeks and is currently being worked through.
DOC staff are in the process of decommissioning the toilets on the Cathedral beach, and is finalising an array of semi-permanent signage which will clearly warn of the rockfall risk and urge people to stay away from the arch and the cliff faces which dominate the cove.
Mr Kelly says his team is also working with commercial operators to ensure they have robust health and safety plans in place for visits to the beach.
“People planning to go to Cathedral Cove should properly inform themselves of the risk, and if they’re uncomfortable with the risk, they should seriously consider not visiting.”
DOC is also urging people planning to visit the cove from the sea – either on a commercial or private vessel – to familiarise themselves with marine reserve rules, and to check weather, tide and sea conditions before attempting to land on or reach the beach.
Representatives of Ngati Hei, the local iwi, have also visited Cathedral Cove and expressed grave concerns not only for public safety, but also cultural safety. A rahui remains in place over this site – restricting access – and DOC and Ngati Hei are asking the public and visitors to respect that.
A project team has been formed to develop options to reimagine the Cathedral Cove-Hahei coastal and conservation experience. Stakeholder and public engagement will form part of that work.
“We need to find resilient solutions to the long-term challenges at this site,” Mr Kelly says.