A little over week ago, a white Subaru got washed off the Moa Point breakwater by a ‘rogue’ wave. Some reports said the car’s occupants were fishing “at the popular fishing spot”, whilst eye (and social media) witnesses said that 3 people were actually inside the car when the wave struck them. They had to smash their way out through the windows and were lucky to get out of the wild ocean alive.

Photo: Mark Boucher, Stuff

This is not the first time a car was swept off that breakwater, and people have died there in the past, according to locals. An airport spokeswoman wrongly claimed that the metal safety barrier had “recently been damaged by the storm or vandalised”. Now, that ‘barrier’ has long been broken, and the breakwater safety sorely neglected by the airport. As with the entire southern end of the runway, the breakwater is an eyesore full of dangerous rocks, akmons and crevices and open to the pounding southerly waves. We can often watch giant waves break over the entire runway end and the breakwater, with holes spurting water several metres high.

Photo: Fritz Schöne
Photo: Fritz Schöne
Photo: Radio NZ
Photo: Radio NZ – this was from 2015 and you can see that the barrier arm going to the actual breakwater was already damaged

We also often watch people fishing off the breakwater, including taking their vehicles up there. Most fishermen aren’t foolhardy enough to do so in southerly swells but rubberneckers have frequently be seen running away or getting drenched in waves breaking over the runway and breakwater. It is an extremely dangerous area.

Photo taken during massive swell in June 2015 – clearly, no barrier was there to stop public access
Photo: Stuff

However, when it comes to finding the authority responsible for ensuring public safety, the plot thickens considerably. In a series of tweets between Dr Sea Rotmann, our Co-Chair and a Moa Point local, the @lyallbaynz account, Eastern Ward Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman and Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC), we tried to uncover who ultimately was in charge – both, of removing the drowned vehicle which was visibly polluting Lyall Bay with debris (and most likely also toxic fluids like oil, petrol and air conditioning fluids etc.), and for taking responsibility for granting unsafe access to the area.

Greater Wellington was the only Council who responded to our inquiries (except for City Councillor Calvi-Freeman) and finally sent commercial divers to the scene to recover the vehicle (4 days later).

Both the Harbourmaster and the Police, which seemed to give mistaken (?) statements that nobody was in the vehicle at the time it was washed off, did not seem to be interested in recovering the vehicle, as it was “the owner’s responsibility”. We have to question this blasé attitude to quite serious pollution of one of our most used city beaches – the car was clearly a write-off so why would the owners go to considerable trouble and expense to get it recovered if no one forced them to? Debris was floating on the surface and washed up on Moa Point beach, around the corner. Surely, the waves could also easily carry it onto the surf break or Lyall Bay beach where it could be a hazard to the public. Would the Regional Council have finally sent someone if the community and Councillor Calvi-Freeman hadn’t been making inquiries?

Secondly, and more concerning seeing that people have died by being swept off that breakwater in the past, is the very disingenuous attitude by the airport erroneously claiming that the barrier was only recently destroyed (see photos from 2015, above) and that it was none of their problem “as the land was owned by someone else”. Reading their “urban design assessment” which forms part of their (halted) Environment Court resource application – halted, by the way because the airport thought it could get away with extending the runway without proper safety areas, which the Supreme Court just agreed with the Pilots’ Association was not sufficient – it becomes clear that the land is indeed owned by the Wellington City Council (WCC). What also becomes clear, however, is that the airport has built the breakwater and sea wall and been “maintaining” it by dumping rocks and akmons off it – without seemingly having a clear permit or resource consent to do so.

The Surfbreak Protection Society has pointed out in the past that this practice by the airport has severely degraded the quality of the “Corner” surf break in Lyall Bay. Their detailed research uncovered that, even though WCC is holding resource consents for work on the sea wall, it was not them but the airport who had been conducting the dumping of rocks in 2015 – without the Council’s clear knowledge. The surf community is in talks with the Council and Airport to have a vertical sea wall reinstated along the length of Moa Point Rd alongside the airport as it was back in the 50’s – 70’s, when the Corner was at its optimum performance. After GRWC directed SPS to have meeting with WIAL last September, Greg Thomas from WIAL noted that the continual dumping of rocks “may not be as cost-effective” as constructing a permanent vertical wall.

In addition, as part of the ‘mitigation’ for destroying one of our most beloved South Coast tāonga, a 3m cycle way and “promenade” is promised to be built by the airport, at the breakwater.

It is quite clear from looking at these imagined drawings, that none of the so-called “experts” the airport has paid with ratepayer dollars have bothered really visiting the area – especially in a Southerly. If they had, they’d have drawn the pedestrians and dogs being washed into the broiling sea and drenched by towering waves! With the benches and access to sea level from the rocks, there is absolutely no way this area can be cordoned off to the public in dangerous conditions. The Council has also recently announced that it was thinking of moving the Lyall Bay car park, near the surf break, as coastal inundation just made it too vulnerable to being repeatedly washed out.

Photo: Uli Beck from Spruce Goose
Photo: Radio NZ

Why does the Council let the airport play hazard with public safety and amenity to this extent, even paying them to do so (for example, by providing millions for the – now useless(?) – expert reports)? Why does it then not hold the airport responsible for any issues related to public health and safety and the clear reduction in amenity values, like the surf break? Who is actually in charge here and does someone else have to die before the authorities will finally do something about this mess?

Originally published on Scoop

News from WPW
The Surfbreak Protection Society, New Zealand’s national surfers’ environmental organisation, is opposing Wellington Airport’s application for resource consent to extend its runway because of the impact it will have on surfing and the surfing environment on Wellington’s South Coast.

Michael Gunson of the SPS says community groups, local businesses and individuals need to get informed about the proposed extension and what it could mean to their quality of life.

“This project will unfortunately not return the benefits that the Airport and the City Council are promoting. Given the events of the last week, it is even more important that a project of this size, which is heavily reliant on public funding to get it across the line, is put under proper scrutiny. Something that has not happened yet.

“In addition to the worrying economic figures that came out of the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s report last month, saying that the estimated cost of the extension would be $428m but likely to rise to almost $500m, compared to the Airport’s estimation of $300m, SPS are focusing their concerns on the impacts to the surfing at Lyall Bay.

“Both the Greater Wellington Regional Council and Wellington City Council have quietly reported that there will be a complete loss of the Airport Rights surf break as a rare wave break, and The Corner surf break could be reduced by 0.8m in height.

“The Airport’s mitigation plan is to install an artificial swell focus reef but there is insufficient data to prove the safety and effectiveness of this technology.

“There is no proof that this reef can work, and there is no acknowledgement by the Airport that the artificial reef will impact adversely on a number of existing peaks in Lyall Bay, and offers unknown consequences for the remainder.

“The Airport’s consultants DHI are still unable to submit a final design that can avoid impacts on the Corner surf break, at the eastern end of the bay.

“The technical reports lodged with the Airport’s application do not acknowledge the nine or so surf breaks as outstanding natural features that contribute to Lyall Bay’s Natural Character (as recognised in the GWRC Proposed Natural Resources Plan and New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement).

“The Greater Wellington Regional Council has identified and mapped areas of high natural character, a requirement under policy 13.1(c) of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement (by mapping or otherwise identifying at least areas of high natural character).

“The Airport have hired a consultant to prescribe that the open coastal waters of Lyall Bay have natural character values of moderate to low, and low to very low, in the areas where Lyall Bay’s surf breaks are present.

“It is the enjoyment, use, experience, and appreciation of Lyall Bay’s features by the local communities in and around the bay which sets the level of natural character and not the Airport’s consultant.”

SPS is urging other Wellington surfers who made submissions on the proposed extension to file their form under section 274 stating they would like to appear in the Environment Court and speak to their submissions.

“We know it can seem complicated but it is important that surfers have their say about the proposal. We would urge people to file the form and speak to their submissions in the Environment Court, it is hugely important that they file their s274 form before the Friday deadline.

“Of the 776 submissions made on the Airport’s resource consent application in August, 525 were opposed to the runway extension. But to speak to that submission, you also need to file a separate form. A form is available at guardiansofthebays.org.nz.”

“Despite the huge majority of local community and environmental groups who are against this proposal, under resourced individuals are having to self-fund the scrutiny that really should have happened at a Council level a long time ago. The Airport received $3m of rate-payers’ money to pull together their application.

“As a national organisation we find it disappointing that it falls to the community to do the research, put forward the resources and engage the expertise to address the serious environmental, social and economic impacts of the proposed runway extension, while the Wellington City Council, whose role it is act in the best interests of their city, are channelling funds to support the big businesses.”

The deadline for filing an s274 form is Friday.

“We strongly urge those who wish to join us in opposing the extension to file their s274 forms as soon as possible.”

By Michael Gunson


WIAL’s grand plan for Lyall Bay’s surf breaks:

The Surf break Protection Society (SPS) would like to think that its submission opposing Wellington International Airport Limited (WIAL)’s airport extension and artificial swell focus reef is the cause of the airport company’s decision to suspend and revise its consent application. The reality is probably that the society’s submission is only one of a number of high quality submissions that have led WIAL to suspend the process.

After recent investigations and inquiries by SPS, WIAL have stated that they have no plans to increase the Moa Point Rd seawall, next to the Corner surf break, during the next 12 months.

This has come as a bit of a surprise to Wellington surfers, as it was assumed these works since 2000 had been undertaken by the Wellington City Council, not the largely privatised WIAL. The works on the seawall are undoubtedly having an adverse effect on the Corner surf break, Wellington’s most popular surfing venue. These works coincide with WIAL seeking the deletion of the Corner surf break from the GWRC Natural Resources Plan (PNRP)’s schedule of regionally significant surf breaks.

WIAL have been modifying the Moa Point Rd seawall next to the Corner surf break utilising a permitted rule under the old existing GWRC Regional Coastal Plan (Dude, this means WIAL don’t have to ask anyone to throw rocks over the seawall!).

The existing Regional Coastal Plan is soon to be replaced with the new Proposed Natural Resources Plan (PNRP). The PNRP specifically incorporates surf break protection policies, compliant with the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010.

The works on the seawall have changed the behaviour of swell approaching the Corner surf break, by changing the slope angle, which now absorbs much of the swell energy traveling along the seawall.

Over the last 6 years or more, the works have continued with an increased frequency/scale, impacting on surfing wave quality at the Corner surf break.

A number of Wellington’s surfers are also confused as to what WIAL is actually offering by way of the airport company only mitigating for the impacts of the proposed airport extension on Lyall Bay’s surf breaks.

WIAL’s Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) for the consent application (page 137) states that “Avoiding or reducing the effects of the proposed runway extension on surfing amenity is difficult to achieve without impacting the length of the runway extension.”

So instead of avoiding or remedying effects on the Corner (and acknowledged significant effects on the Bay’s middle and western surf breaks) WIAL’s application to the Environment Court is only in the context of mitigation, the lowest response available under the RMA (aside from doing nothing).


WIAL’s own desktop modelling indicates an adverse effect on Wellington’s most popular “Corner” surf break, which the airport company contests is only minimal.

The possible reduction of wave rides at “The Corner” is likely to only be noticeable by the most seasoned and experienced surfers who have surfed “The Corner” for many years (WIAL AEE).

The peer review of WIAL’s technical report acknowledges that the effects of wave-driven currents on the Corner are also an unknown factor.

WIAL’s DHI technical report does not take into account the cumulative effects of a replacement sea wall, and CentrePort’s proposed dredge disposal grounds off Fitzroy Bay on the Corner surf break, as these activities are not part of the airport extension consent applications.

WIAL is still unwilling to undertake a degree of baseline monitoring necessary to gauge the overall adverse effects on the Corner surf break. (Note that seeing they have already impacted on the surf quality, even a baseline would show it to be worse than it previously was).

WIAL have given an undertaking that when they provide a final design concept for the artificial swell focus reef (not yet provided in WIAL’s AEE), the focus reef structure itself, will not have an adverse effect on the Corner. This is utterly meaningless unless WIAL understand the baseline conditions, the natural processes that form the surf break, and environmental influences that impact on the break, like modifying the seawall (which they don’t).

Artificial swell focus reefs are an unproven technology, there is not one working example anywhere in the world designed specifically for surfing.

What happens if the artificial surf focus reef fails?

It doesn’t really seem to matter, because WIAL will have their airport extension and any response required will be guided simply by the objectives, rules, and policies in the GWRC Proposed Natural Resources Plan (PNRP) that protect the Corner surf break, and all other surf breaks of Lyall Bay. Unless WIAL’s submission to the PNRP is successful of course…

WIAL have submitted decisively in opposition to these surf break protections in the PNRP, and there is every indication that WIAL will appeal these protections for the Corner surf break through an Environment Court process entirely separate to the airport company’s consent applications.

The hearings for the PNRP are due in March next year, and the suspension for the WIAL airport extension application has lent WIAL a helpful timeframe to test its submission seeking the deletion of the Corner surf break from the PNRP schedule of regionally significant surf breaks, before the airport extension consent applications begin.

WIAL need the Corner deleted to provide a mitigation offset for the airport extension, a promenade with a new rock-armoured seawall down the length of Moa Point Rd with viewing platforms, and a reworked breakwater (WIAL AEE).

In WIAL’s submission to the GWRC PNRP, the company has comprehensively sought the deletion of the Corner surf break from all references in the plan, and there is every possibility that WIAL would be prepared for a trade-off in not pursuing the deletion of surf break policies totally in the PNRP, simply for the removal of the Corner surf break, from the PNRP’s schedule of regionally significant surf breaks.

WIAL are also seeking a new rule in the PNRP under 5.7.6Seawalls. Specifically for the replacement of existing seawalls they are seeking that it be a permitted activity status (that means that the public would not be consulted and no consent or public notification is required).

WIAL are also contesting in part the existing rule 165, specifically that part which lists the schedule of regionally-significant surf breaks as a matter of control – in this case meaning that works must ensure no adverse effects occur on the Corner surf break.

In other words: Dude, WIAL don’t want to look out for the Corner surf break as they keep dumping rocks off the seawall, and are opposing any rules that mean they would have too.

Under the existing regional coastal plan the rules on structures (seawalls) that WIAL have been using come with conditions that: Any maintenance, repair, replacement extension, addition or alteration to or of any existing lawful structure adds no more than 5 metres in horizontal projection and 1 metre in vertical projection measured from the structure existing at 29 June 1994 (the date of public notification of that Plan as a proposed plan).

The New PNRP that replaces the old Regional Coastal Plan resets the clock for the sea wall footprint as of 31 July 2015, meaning that WIAL will be able to extend a further 5 metres into the sea – IF the Corner is not a consideration.

WIAL were reportedly adding to the Moa Point Road seawall footprint right up to that date in 2015, meanwhile, SPS and the Wellington Boardriders club were negotiating in good faith over avoiding adverse effects on the Corner surf break from the extension and swell focus reef.

During these consultations, WIAL’s Communications Manager Greg Thomas continued to deflect questions about the Corner surf break back toward the perceived benefits of the proposed artificial swell focus reef. Mr Thomas knew full well our concerns over impacts of modifications to the seawall on the Corner surf break.

Due to concerns raised by SPS, GWRC are now revising the works undertaken by WIAL along the Moa Point Rd seawall to ensure the airport company has been complying with the rules of the existing coastal plan.

If WIAL gets its way in the PNRP appeals process by eliminating the Corner surf break, the airport company will be able to build its new armoured Moa Point Rd sea wall (page 212, 283, WIAL AEE) without consulting surfers or the general public.

It should be noted that while the promenade and new seawall are in WIAL’s AEE for the airport extension, the consents for the promenade will be a separate consent application to Wellington City Council.

Unless WIAL’s submission is challenged there is the real potential that the new sea wall to provide viewing platforms down to sea level in WIAL’s AEE, being undertaken without any consultation or consideration of the Corner surf break.

This whole scenario provides a level of difficulty for surfers in debating cumulative effects on the Corner surf break through the airport extension environment court process.

WIAL are doing everything they can to walk away from its obligations to the Corner surf break, as perceived by the surfer dudes (including SPS) who were consulting with WIAL in good faith over the promise of an artificial swell focus reef.

WIAL’s desire is to complete these works related to the promenade and seawall prior to the construction of the airport extension being completed (AEE page 264).

Over the next fifteen years WIAL are seeking to progressively develop commercial activities with its sites on the Western apron, in the vicinity of the Corner surf break.

By all appearances it would seem that the existence of the Corner surf break conflicts with WIAL’s vision for this area.

If you have any historical photos of the Moa Point Rd seawall over the last fifteen years or so (with dates), please email them to info@surfbreak.org.nz and we will pass them on to the GWRC investigating officer.

SPS is committed to protecting the Corner and all surf breaks through the PNRP Environment Court appeal process, and the society will challenge this assault on the Corner, Airport Rights, and all of Lyall Bay’s surf breaks.

Dude, WIAL is not acting in good faith, if surfers fall for the carrot of an unproven artificial surf focus reef, and WIAL succeeds in removing the Corner from the schedule of regionally significant surf breaks, then the Airport company can simply walk away from any perceived obligations toward our Corner, and surfers will be asking themselves:

Dude, where’s my surf break?

by Michael Gunson

Link here
Revelations have emerged that Wellington International Airport Ltd has been responsible for alterations to the Moa Point Road sea wall in Lyall Bay. Why has the airport been in charge of developing the sea wall, and not the Wellington City Council?

The incremental creep of the sea wall has had a negative impact on Wellington’s premier Lyall Bay Corner surf break. WIAL are also applying for consents to build a 3 meter wide promenade the length of Moa Point Rd, as well as seeking the Corner surf break’s deletion, from a GWRC schedule of regionally significant surf breaks.

Since the beginning, the airport company has reassured Wellington surfers that it is doing all it can to preserve our surf breaks in Lyall Bay, to mitigate future impacts and even improve it. As we stare down the barrel of their proposed runway extension, it is now becoming clear to Wellington’s surfing community that this is not the case.

The 346-page Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) only discusses mitigation, not active avoidance or a plan to remedy adverse effects on the Corner.

WIAL has submitted 28 documents to the Wellington City Council (WCC) and the Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and nowhere do they mention that they will seek to avoid or remedy adverse effects from the airport extension on the Lyall Bay Corner surf break (the Corner).

According to computer modelling conducted on behalf of WIAL by DHI Ltd, the construction of the airport extension will have negative impacts on the Corner’s surfing wave quality, yet DHI are unable to predict what effects would occur from wave driven currents e.g. sweep (longshore) and rip (outgoing cross shore) currents. This remains a big unknown.

The placement of an artificial swell focus reef also poses challenges, by creating adverse effects on the Corner, by way of interrupting the currents in the bay. The final design and placement of the reef needs further modelling and onsite instrumentation to find a way to avoid these extra adverse effects on the Corner.

WIAL have given a promise to Wellington surfers through their Surf Mitigation Adaptive Management Plan that the final concept design of the Swell Focus reef (which is only for the mitigation of surf in the west and center of Lyall Bay) will be in such a position and distance from the Corner that the proposed reef will avoid adverse effects on the Corner surf break.

The extension will still have adverse effects on the Corner surf break.

airport surf 2

Wellington surfers have been confused by WIAL’s public relations that the Corner will be looked after. A final design concept for the reef has not yet been provided. Yet even with the remodelling of the Moa Point rock wall over the last 15 years, surfers have been complaining of the loss of the rip that runs up along the inside of the wall, beside the Corner surf break, and how that has affected the Corner’s legendary peak.

WIAL AEE p199 states:

“’Airport Rights’ is a surf break which is only utilised a few times a year during certain conditions by experienced surfers. The loss of this surfing amenity will therefore only affect a small group of expert surfers. The possible reduction of wave rides at ‘The Corner’ is likely to only be noticeable by the most seasoned and experienced surfers who have surfed ‘The Corner’ for many years.”

But the Wellington Boardriders Club’s (WBC) own scientific advice states that WIAL’s proposed baseline monitoring data of at least two months’ worth, for the proposed future detailed modelling for surf amenity impact assessment and for the concept design phase for the proposed submerged wave focussing structure by WIAL, is not adequate, nor is the level and frequency of monitoring going forward suitable to identify any adverse effects from the extension, or focus reef on the Corner.

As far as mitigation goes – the Draft Surf Mitigation Adaptive Management Plan should not be considered adequate to satisfy Wellington Board riders, it is certainly not adequate for the Surfbreak Protection Society (SPS).


Surbreak Protection Society’s (SPS) President Paul Shanks is warning surfers that any submission in support of the untested, unknown, focus reef is a submission endorsing WIAL’s degradation of the Corner.

On top of a lack of data to support WIAL’s PR that there will be only minor adverse effects on the Corner, WIAL’s AEE page 136 – 7.3.9 states:

“The only adverse assessed change in coastal physical processes that has been identified relates to the reduction in a combination of wave heights and period in parts of Lyall Bay, particularly in the north eastern area of Lyall Bay adjacent to the revetment”

That’s the Corner surf break.

WIAL failed to inform surfers during the collaborative consultation (prior to Consent lodgement) that WIAL plan to build a promenade along Moa Point Road, interfering with the Corner surf break, extending all the way down to Lyall Parade, and encompassing the existing Corner car park, opposite the Spruce Goose Café. When queried about the promenade, WIAL gave a short answer that “all improvement works from the breakwater to Lyall Parade will be undertaken on existing land.”

So what about the separate consents held by the Wellington City Council for the purpose of the maintenance and extension of the Moa Point sea wall?

Compounding the issues with the proposed runway extension is the fact that there has been continuous deposition of rock along the Moa Point Road sea wall pursuant to resource consents granted to the Wellington City Council. The council holds two non-notified consents to conduct works along the sea wall; surfers and the public never had the opportunity to comment on them. Surfers have spoken out about this for years.

The effects from this dumping on the Corner waves for surfing have been noticeable since the nineties, with the change to the shape and form of the sea wall. This has affected the Corner as rock is deposited on top of the sea wall and then bulldozed into the Corner’s swell corridor (“Swell corridor” means the region offshore of a surf break where ocean swell travels and transforms to a “surfable wave”). Wave energy is now absorbed by the sea wall reducing the reflection back to the focused take off point for the Corner surf break, impacting on the “insane peak” that the Corner is renowned for.

The latest batch of rocks have been placed on the wall, right next to Lyall Bay’s best wave, and it’s anyone’s guess when that will be pushed over the wall. The last earthworks activity on the Wall was in 2015.

Moa Point Rd rock wall activity in 2012.

Moa Point Rd rock wall activity in 2012.


montage 4

Last week SPS alerted GWRC to the degradation of the Corner due to the dumped rocks and, upon the insistence of SPS, GWRC sought answers from the city council – SPS were shocked to discover that it appears as though it is not WCC degrading the Corner surf break, but rather WIAL has been undertaking these works. Whilst WCC holds consents that relate to the area in the corner of Lyall Bay Parade and Moa Point Road, WIAL does not hold consents to deposit material over the sea wall at the Corner surf break. SPS are seeking records of works undertaken under these consents, and whether there is any contract between WCC and WIAL for the airport company to exercise these consents on WCC’s behalf.

While these consents are legal, it is unfortunate that WIAL seem to be exercising these consents to potentially reclaim more of the seabed and foreshore at the expense of the Corner surf break, while their proposed promenade is to be built on “existing land”. Separate to the consents held by the city council.

Airport spokesperson John Kyle has given an assurance that no rock material will be pushed over the wall within the next 12 months, but there are questions that remain unanswered:

Who is in charge of managing the Moa Point Road sea wall after the new extension consents are issued?

Consent No. WGN010112 [20920] issued in 2001 gives the consent holder the right to extend the Western Sea Wall on Moa Point Road until 29 January 2036, and absolute authority to reclaim more of the Coastal Marine Area, to the detriment of the Corner surf break. What are WIAL’s plans for further reclamation by way of this consent?

Will the runway consents now being applied for give WIAL the right to continue degrading the Corner surf break in the name of securing the Moa Point Road access route to the airport?

The airport’s consent planner John Kyle has indicated that the city council sea wall consents are being exercised by the airport company. Is there is a conflict of interest here, with WIAL in charge of these sea wall reclamations that continue to degrade the Corner surf break, while at the same time, WIAL continue to pursue the deletion of the Corner surf break from the GWRC Proposed Natural Resources Plan.

GWRC have advised that if anyone witnesses any further works on the Moa Point Road sea wall, they should contact the GWRC environmental response team on 0800 496 734.

Returning to the application by WIAL to extend the runway, SPS believe that it is inadequate for WIAL to only propose mitigating adverse effects under amenity values and that this is an inappropriate response level for the impacts this project will deliver to Lyall Bay’s surf breaks. The application should be thrown out of court on this basis alone.

Under this paradigm, WIAL appear to be trading adverse effects on the Corner surf break simply by building an amenity feature, a promenade and the promise of an unproven technology in natural environments, a submerged swell focus structure. Perhaps this is why WIAL are ignoring the extension consent application’s compliance obligations in the context of the New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement’s surf break protection policies.

WIAL are seeking to have Lyall Bay surf breaks recognised under policies that only refer to amenity values that have less strength than surf break policies under the NZCPS.

While Lyall Bay could lose its Corner surf break, at least the surfers will have a lovely promenade to cycle, or walk their dog.

Time is running out. The runway extension is a massive risk to the enjoyment of Lyall Bay for surfers from Wellington, New Zealand and the rest of the world. Any Kiwis who identify themselves as being a surfer, should be writing a submission opposed to WIAL’s runway extension. Here is an easy way to do it online:

If you want to have your say on this, put in your submission by 12 August. Please clarify that you want to be heard in Court. The Surfbreak Protection Society is grateful for the opportunity to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Guardians of the Bays in opposing the runway extension outright.

Michael Gunson, Research Officer at Surfbreak Protection Society, is a long-time Wellington surfer


Opposition to the proposed runway extension is growing if attendance at the recent Guardians of the Bays information evening is anything to go by. A diverse range of groups, from business, community, recreational and environmental organisations are asking questions to peel away the public relations spin around the ill-conceived, expensive airport extension proposal.

Groups as diverse as Forest & Bird; various Residents’ Associations; Wellington businesses; Save the Basin; the Surfbreak Protection Society; Hue te Taka Society; OraTaiao: The NZ Climate & Health Council; the Wellington Underwater Club; 350.org and the Green Party, to name a few, were represented at last week’s meeting. It quickly became clear that everyone present was deeply concerned at the spin being put out by the airport company, and the potential cost it will have to ratepayers and taxpayers, and of course to the beautiful Wellington south coast.

The meeting was MCed by Bishop Richard Randerson, who has national standing for his work in faith-based and place-based communities. He made it clear that an airport extension does not make Wellington more progressive, particularly when the ratepayers and taxpayers are being asked to subsidise one of New Zealand’s wealthiest companies.

Dr Sea Rotmann, co-Chair of the Guardians of The Bays, outlined the group’s main areas of opposition in her presentation [gview file=”https://guardiansofthebays341400583.files.wordpress.com/2021/06/b54e9-gotb-info-evening-presentation.pdf”%5D where she blew away a few airport myths like:

  • There will be little impact on marine ecology – but their ‘experts’ didn’t even know that Moa Point was a breeding habitat for the critically-endangered reef heron, nor do they know what the infill material will contain.
  • There will be little impact on recreational activities – but they haven’t really done a great job at collecting the data to support this statement. Council officers have not yet referred the application to the Environment Court because there were so many inconsistencies and information gaps resulting in 46 questions and a further resource consent needed.
  • The extension will result in fewer greenhouse gas emissions – yeah right, especially seeing it is meant to increase long-haul passenger numbers by 16.1 million versus business as usual!
  • The extension will withstand rising sea levels and 8m waves – yet all you need to do is visit Lyall Bay in winter and you’ll see 10m+ waves on a regular basis, not to mention the issues around sea level rise and storm surges affecting all access roads to the airport.
  • Trust the airport and their ‘experts’, they know what they’re doing – this from an organisation that wasn’t even able to collect a full set of data because of the bad weather in Cook Strait, who have little idea what the infill material will be (but it may be contaminated dredge spoil from CentrePort), who wanted to hide construction noise under BAU aircraft activities, who didn’t know they needed a resource consent for stormwater discharge and who have commissioned 4 economic reports claiming bigger and bigger benefits, despite their methodology continually being savaged by an army of independent economists…

Tim Jones, who brings to the group valuable experience from the campaign against a proposed Basin Reserve flyover, ran over a few traffic facts – did you know that if the project goes ahead, 1.5 million m3 of fill will be transported from Horokiwi and Kiwi Point quarries by truck through central Wellington, along SH1 through both tunnels to the airport, often every 2 minutes and all during the night? And that the revised route through Vivian Street, Karo Drive, Wellington Road, Lyall Parade, Onepu Road, Rongotai Road, Evans Bay Parade may actually pose serious safety hazards?

Rob le Petit from the Surfbreak Protection Society reiterated the support of the surfing fraternity who love their surf and whose members include leading experts in planning, oceanography and the environment. Did you know that Lyall Bay is one of the birthplaces of NZ surfing, yet the airport are proving particularly sneaky by trying to make deals with the surfers promising them an untested ‘wave focusing device’ while on the other hand the airport is aggressively attacking the legal obligations that protect the Lyall Bay surf?

Keith Johnson is standing for Mayor because he is sickened by the lack of commitment by the current crop of would-be Mayoral contenders to fairness, accountability, economics and good governance. He is especially appalled by Wellington City Council’s championing of the runway extension. Dr Johnson is a transport economist and told the meeting that the cost-benefit-analysis ratio the airport has conjured up of 1.7 (now 2.3!) is nonsense and should more realistically be less than 1.

What’s more, not only do we not know how much it’s really going to cost, the benefits the airport wizards have created keep going up, up, up – like the length of the extension (or Pinocchio’s nose!) which has grown from 300m to 363m – yet the costs, we’re told, remain the same! We should be afraid, very afraid, about putting our trust into a project of this magnitude which carries so many uncertainties and risks.

Infratil lier plane

Wellington City Councillor and former airport planner David Lee asked who is going to fund this Great Big White Elephant? The Government’s said NO, the other Councils in the region have said MAYBE to the tune of $60m, with Wellington City Council earmarking $90m (in addition to the $3m they already paid up front). As David said – this level of corporate welfare STINKS. The big winner is the airport who is only contributing about $50m! And this still leaves a $100-150 million shortfall which Mayoral candidate Justin Lester is on record as saying that if the government doesn’t step in ratepayers, or investors – whoever they might be – will have to pay.

These are some of the many, many reasons why this airport runway extension is simply madness, and why so many diverse groups will fight it to the end. But the biggest killer of the project, seeing this is the whole reason why the Council is pushing this so much, was delivered by John Beckett, the Executive Director of the Board of Airline Representatives (BARNZ). BARNZ represents all 24 airlines that are flying into New Zealand, including the five that fly into Wellington.

John made it very clear that no long-haul airlines flying to New Zealand support this project, and the reason is simple economics: the aviation sector is extremely competitive with high costs and thin margins. Long-haul aircraft need high load factors in order to operate a route profitably. It is unlikely that any airline in Asia or North America would fly non-stop long haul into Wellington because the market is too small. Their first choice would be Auckland, and then Christchurch, on the grounds of population and proximity to tourism highlights. Wellington comes a distant third. As John pointed out, the route projections and cost-benefit analysis provided by the airport’s economists are overly optimistic, and BARNZ’s economic experts, NZIER, will be on hand to dismantle the airport’s arguments in court. Without additional flights attracted by the extension, it is also likely that airport charges will rise on all other routes into Wellington in order to cover the costs and profits.

To summarise why we need to keep asking questions about the proposed runway extension:

  • There is no proven demand for it and no long-haul airlines will come here and stay the course.
  • The real cost is not known and likely to be much more than the current forecast of $300 million.
  • The benefits are unreal and over-inflated – simply conjured up by the Airport wizards…
  • Only Wellington City Council has made a commitment to fund some of the extension, leaving a huge funding shortfall.
  • Wellington City ratepayers will pay for this folly disproportionately – in terms of inter-generational debt; cost overruns; interest charges; environmental, health and recreational impacts; ensuing traffic chaos; and cost increases for every passenger and anyone using the airport, for example when parking a car.
  • Wellington Airport is in a highly risky location, both in terms of safety and impacts from climate change such as rising sea levels and other environmental catastrophes, which are already endangering access.
  • It will destroy so much of what people most love about Wellington: the Lyall Bay surf, the rugged south coast, the little blue penguin and reef heron nesting habitats, fishing, diving and the collection of kai moana, not to mention the joy it brings to everyone when we get orca visitors
  • Climate change (which threatens our economy, health & well-being) and the global agreement to move towards zero net climate-damaging emissions have been completely ignored in the airport’s cost-benefit ‘analysis’.
  • The cost-benefit analysis, when done properly, shows an actual return of investment of less than 1. That means that this is a financial loser where we are set to gain less than a dollar for every dollar spent!
  • It represents economic incompetence on the part of our politicians whose lazy thinking sees the runway extension as the answer to all our economic woes – when they are the last people we should rely on to ‘pick winners’. Justin Lester even used the Chair of Infratil, the majority shareholder of the airport and a multi-national company, in his election video. And when he got asked about this on his facebook site, he swiftly deleted the questions!
  • It provides a corporate handout to a large, very wealthy company with a billion dollars to spend which it is choosing not to invest in Wellington’s runway extension. Infratil is laughing all the way to the bank because it thinks it is getting away with taking your rates for their airport, which will end up being poured down Cook Strait.
  • This is nothing but the badly thought-out vanity project of some politicians who want to ‘leave their legacy’ by building a Great Big White Elephant on our South Coast.

We have developed a handy submission guide that can be used by every person and group wanting to join us in the Environment Court to fight this environmentally damaging case and colossal waste of ratepayers money.

If you want to join us, please subscribe to the Guardians of the Bays and help us ensure that Wellington does progress – but in the smartest, most sustainable and positive ways, not with out-dated ‘think big’ projects and corporate welfare.


If you’ve ever had to go through customs in New Zealand, you’ll know they don’t f*ck around when it comes to protecting their unique environment. Have a little something spilled on your shoe and you’re as good as barred. But even in the land of the Long White Cloud, the wheels of progress grind ever forward.

On the southern tip of the north island there is a rising quarrel between the Wellington International Airport and local surfers. With a runway extension in the planning stages, adjacent Lyall Bay may soon find itself in the oncoming path of an Airbus.

For those short on New Zealand surf history, on March 7, 1915, a certain Duke Kahanamoku introduced wave shooting to a stunned Kiwi audience at Lyall Bay. “He stood right up on the board, while the latter shot along at a great speed,” reads an account from The Evening Post. “By careful steering he prolonged the shoot for a distance of 150 to 200 yards.”

We should all hope to prolong the shoot. Needless to say, Lyall Bay is the official birthplace of New Zealand surfing and today serves as the pressure valve for Wellington area surfers thanks to its myriad beach break options.

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By no means the best surf action shot you’ve ever seen, but it does capture the (til now) harmony between the airport and the surfers.

The concern of the Surfbreak Protection Society (SPS), a group that is “dedicated to the conservation of the ‘treasures’ of the New Zealand surfing community,” is that the Wellington International Airport Ltd (WIAL) is attempting to force its runway extension through the Environment Court via some less-than-above-board political maneuvering.

The WIAL’s original concession for extending the airport was to design and build some form of artificial reef to give surfers somewhere to go.

“At this stage of the project, and subject to further investigations, it is considered that a submerged wave focusing structure may be the safest and most cost effective approach for mitigating and potentially further enhancing surfing amenity in Lyall Bay,” reads the Wellington Airport Runway Extension Surf Break Impact Assessment (woah!), which was released in October 2015.

SPS, along with the Wellington Boardriders Club, have been working with them since May 2015 to figure out a solution, but at this time it appears the relationship is growing tenuous.

This March, SPS questioned the sincerity of WIAL’s proposed artificial reef after it came to light the airport company was allegedly pursuing loopholes in policies that specifically protect surf breaks.

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So much potential! Imagine conditions like this with the guidance of a designer artificial reef!

“In plain words, WIAL are telling surfers that the company is obligated to protect Lyall Bay’s surfing amenity ‘overall,’ yet on the other hand, are aggressively attacking the very legal obligations for them to do so, by seeking policy changes,” explains a SPS press release.

“A robust Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) is essential, especially for a project of this magnitude, yet the design concepts for the swell focus structure in the middle of Lyall Bay differ significantly from one preliminary report to the next,” says SPS research and communications officer Mike Gunson.

This fight’s certainly not over, and it’s probably going to get more heated before it is, but if a trip through New Zealand customs is any gauge of what’s to come, Lyall Bay may be getting a new reef.

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The Surfbreak Protection Society (SPS) is very concerned that Wellington International Airport Ltd is attempting to railroad through its runway extension by way of the Environment Court, seeing it has not yet yall Bay made convincing arguments through articulated scientific-based debate.

In March, SPS questioned the sincerity of WIAL’s proposed mitigation of a swell focussing reef, while at the same time the airport company were seeking the deletion of policies that protect surf breaks, by way of WIAL’s submission to the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Proposed Natural Resources Plan (PNRP).

WIAL have yet again demonstrated their statement of intent, in pursuing the deletion of protection for the region’s surf breaks, and in particular, Lyall Bay’s revered Corner surf break in the PNRP, by way of a further submission to the plan.

In plain words, WIAL are telling surfers that the company is obligated to protect Lyall Bay’s surfing amenity “overall”, yet on the other hand, are aggressively attacking the very legal obligations for them to do so, by seeking these policy changes.

SPS, along with the Wellington Boardriders Club and other concerned local surfers, have been consulting with WIAL since May last year. WIAL submitted to the PNRP on 25 September, but would have been working on their submission long before that.

The attack on surfbreak policies, combined with WIAL ignoring the recommendations of our proven adaptive management plan conditions sought through consultation, leaves the future of Lyall Bay’s surf breaks at substantial risk.
To that end, SPS can have no confidence in the overtures made to Wellington’s surfing community by WIAL’s External Relations and Marketing Manager about WIAL’s promises in perpetuity, to maintain and if possible enhance Lyall Bay’s surfing amenity value.

“A robust Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) is essential, especially for a project of this magnitude, yet the design concepts for the swell focus structure in the middle of Lyall Bay differ significantly from one preliminary report to the next,” says SPS research and communications officer Mike Gunson.

WIAL are offering a “notion” of what may be possible without applying proper precautionary principles in the Coastal Marine Area, and expecting the Wellington surfing community to have faith in WIAL’s “desired outcomes.”

SPS are of the view that WIAL’s “rush job” on forcing the issue without true and proper public debate, along with impact assessment studies that raise more red flags than they answer, leaves SPS with no alternative than to reject WIAL’s proposed airport extension and focus reef structure.

SPS recognise that the Guardians of the Bays have continuously put up articulated debate on a number of points about the impacts and viability of the proposed extension, as have SPS and our scientific/legal counsel regarding the significant impacts on surfing.

SPS asks: if this is such an important infrastructure development for the region, why is WIAL aggressively shutting down articulated debate? SPS looks forward to a close working relationship between ourselves and Guardians of the Bays.

SPS encourages the NZ surfing community to contribute to the Guardians of the Bay Givealittle fundraiser as a first line of defence for Lyall Bay’s surf breaks.

email: info@surfbreak.org.nz

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