Monday, December 11, 2023

Report unearths landslide risk for Cathedral Cove, Hahei

The Department of Conservation (DOC) says an independent report has confirmed the risk of potentially harmful rockfall and landslides at Coromandel’s Cathedral Cove and its adjacent bays and tracks.

After extreme weather events in January and February caused landslips and rockfalls – and damaged tracks to the point some are impassable – the Department has urged people to stay away from Cathedral Cove and nearby bays, and the network of tracks connecting them.

Following those weather events, DOC commissioned Tonkin + Taylor (T+T) to produce a landslide risk assessment report for the area. The Department also requested the report include options for mitigation of track damage.

DOC says the report highlights the need for practical risk reduction strategies at the site.

Tinaka Mearns.

DOC’s Hauraki-Waikato-Taranaki Regional Director, Tinaka Mearns says the Department’s internal review of the T+T report, when set against DOC’s own visitor safety framework and measures, has determined an increased risk of injury or fatality at the location.

“The report details ongoing risk of landslide across the wider site,” Ms Mearns says.

“Across the 3.8km of tracks around Cathedral Cove and the adjacent bays, 180 historical or recent landslides were identified. Beach cliffs, including those overlooking Cathedral Cove were described as ‘particularly hazardous’ due to ongoing landslides and rockfall.”

She said landslides had washed away sections of the main track down to Cathedral Cove, and the report signals more of the same kind of damage could emerge.

DOC’s Visitor Safety Team has determined the associated risk is at the top end of the scale DOC can manage for the type of day-trip visitors who have traditionally visited Cathedral Cove.

With the main track to Cathedral Cove extensively damaged and at risk of further instability – and no “quick fixes” available for other tracks compromised tracks in the area – DOC says it will not reinstate the current walking routes down to the beach for this summer.

Visitors are also strongly urged not to go through the cove’s famous arch, with debris falling from the arch to the sand below as recently as last weekend.

However, within the next few weeks visitors will be able to return to the beach via the Te Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve.

“Renewing access to Cathedral Cove from the sea allows people to go there – but we want to make very clear there is still risk associated with going to this site and people need to inform themselves properly before visiting,” Ms Mearns says.

“There is still potential for rockfall landslides at these sites, and we need to emphasise this to the public. You go at your own risk.”

DOC also announced it will decommission the toilet block at Cathedral Cove beach.

“We need to make sensible long-term investments at this site, rather than spend money on short-term solutions which are not sustainable and will not withstand the increasing extreme weather events caused by climate change,” said Ms Mearns.

DOC has updated website information on Cathedral Cove on its website, including making the T+T report publicly available.

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