Buffalo Beach backstop wall nears completion 19 December 2013 A rockwall and footpath extension at Buffalo Beach, Whitianga is nearing completion. The rockwall is part of a coordinated approach to manage coastal erosion in the Whitianga beachfront area. For the past 18 months a working party including affected property owners, local iwi Ngati-Hei, TCDC and WRC staff, the Mercury Bay Community Board and local artist Michael Smither have refined all previous historic reports into a summary of specific actions for each section of the coast and established the Whitianga Coastal Erosion Action Plan. The newly-built rock wall at Buffalo Beach is part of this work and is a 105m extension to the NZTA rock wall. "It's just great to see progress in structural work that will help protect the beach," says TCDC Mercury Bay Area Manager Sam Marshall. "Over winter we also had a great turn out for a volunteer planting day to help rejuvenate the sand dunes further along Buffalo Beach," says Mr Marshall. "Next year we'll be concentrating on work at Brophy's Beach." Meanwhile the rock amour at the NZTA section of Buffalo Beach will protect the foreshore, the Halligan Street toilet block, the footpath, trees and carpark from further coastal erosion. "Local contractors, Roadworx have made steady progress at a rate of 10 m per day, embedding large rocks to a depth of ½ m below low tide level," says Project Manager Steve Bremner, from the Thames-Coromandel District Council. Behind the rocks, which were transported to the site from Tairua quarry, is geotextile matting to allow wave action to draw water in and out, while restraining sand particles that can undermine the strength of the wall. The Buffalo Beach contract includes the construction of a footpath that runs along the top of the rock wall extending the current footpath back to Whitianga’s main street from the toilet block. The footpath is a two-stage construction with half the project to be completed prior to Christmas and the remainder in the New Year. It incorporates pavement artwork by Whitianga Coastal Action Plan member Michael Smither, who is also one of New Zealand’s most sought after artists and an Otama Beach resident. Known for his iconic representations of the environment, Mr Smither’s work features coloured stingray forms set in the grey concrete of the footpath. His design covers an 80 m length of the pathway, with 5 m sections arranged in varying ways, using different sized stingray forms in different colours. “Economics have inspired a new system similar to a biscuit cutter that allows the stingray shapes to be cast into the pathway in situ,” says Mr Smither, “ I imagine it will be fun for children as well as adults and have a real connection with the environment that the nature of the wall itself belies”. Ngati-Hei favoured the footpath artwork theme in the hope users will connect with the importance of maintaining healthy oceans. A temporary hoggin material will be filled into the stingray stencils until the coloured concrete is available to be poured in the New Year. "We want to make the footpath safe and usable over the Christmas/New Year period until the coloured concrete is ready for us to pour," says Mr Marshall.