Five management areas (A-E) in Island Bay Beach.
To meet recreational needs and at the same time minimise disturbance to natural processes, Wellington City Council has cleared seaweed from around the surf club building no more than three times a year (January - March). Council has also been trialling dune restoration planting.
This project refers only to the Wellington City Council-managed area of Island Bay Beach, namely the area above Mean High Water Springs (MHWS). The Department of Conservation manages the area below this, which is part of theTaputeranga Marine Reserve.
For more than 10 years, the Council's management of the beach has been to clear the seaweed if needed before events (such as the 'Big Dig'). The Council had expected to keep to this level of service but in summer 2008/09, some community members approached us asking for the seaweed to be cleared more often.
To help us in the decision-making process, we held a meeting in May 2009 to hear the community's views and learn more about the history of the beach.
All agreed that it is an important area for recreation and that litter should be regularly cleared from the beach.
Some felt that the seaweed enhances recreation on the beach and is a natural part of a healthy beach and coastline. Others said that the seaweed should be cleared as it limits people's enjoyment of the beach. Some beaches (eg Oriental Bay and Petone) are groomed on a seasonal basis or after a storm.
Ecology of the beach
There are very productive kelp forests off Wellington's south coast and bits break away and end up on the beach - this is part of a natural process.
Some of the seaweed is then washed or blown back into the sea. The old surf club building shelters some of the beach from this wind which is why there is often a greater build-up of seaweed around it.
Research shows that when seaweed is left on a beach it can play a significant role in coastal ecosystems including:
- washing back to sea over time
- staying on the beach
- becoming part of the coastal food web
- adding to natural beach processes like dune formation.
To make sure we had a full and proper understanding of all the issues, we engaged coastal experts to prepare a plan. The brief for the consultants was to describe the potential issues for the beach (ecological and recreational) and to develop recommendations for its management.
The plan was produced in June 2009:
Island Bay Five Year Restoration Plan (476KB PDF)
The recommendations in the plan aimed to integrate recreational activities, amenities and the ecology. The plan divided the beach into five different management zones.
Based on the report's recommendations, the Council's intentions for each zone are summarised below.
We will continue to support the community volunteers carrying out dune restoration work.
As resources and priorities allow, we will discuss with the community dune care group the possibility of growing dune plants here. The aim would be to prevent sand blowing over the wall and exposure of the boulders which are part of the sea wall. Adequate access would need to be maintained.
Leave as is.
In response to community requests, the Council will carry out occasional clearing of surface seaweed and debris during January to March, typically after a strong southerly or immediately before an event such as the Island Bay Festival, but no more than once a month.
Mechanical raking to a depth of 150 - 300mm will be used to remove the seaweed from the area in front of and next to the surf club building, from the ramp access on the eastern side to the steps on the western side. The clearing will only take place above mean high water tide and only in a northerly so that the seaweed can be taken back out by the sea during low tide.
We will continue to trial the planting of native sand dune binding plants (spinifex and pingao) against the sea wall on either side of the ramp access to the east of the building. The effect of this planting on the profile of the beach will be monitored. We will also plant in the area between the building and the sea wall.
We will monitor the effects of more regular clearings and the development of the dunes, and review our decision in 2013 because of these long-term issues:
- ongoing sand loss
- wave action against the building
- rising sea level.
The Council's litter team will continue to visit Island Bay Beach on a weekly basis to clear litter.
The toilets and changing rooms will continue to be open throughout summer and visited and cleaned a minimum of four times every day.
The success (or otherwise) of the trial planting in Area D will help us decide about dune planting in Area E.
Manager, Community Engagement & Reserves - Parks & Gardens