World-famous Abel Tasman coastal track being eaten by the sea

by Tracy Neal / 09 March, 2018

Help us find and write the stories Kiwis need to read

RelatedArticlesModule - erosion

Most of the Abel Tasman track hugs the coast, which is what makes it desirable to visit - but also what makes it vulnerable. Photo / RNZ

Coastal erosion of one of New Zealand's most popular walks is forcing a rethink on how to manage it.

Erosion of coastal tracks in the Abel Tasman National Park means some might have to be moved further inland, a Department of Conservation manager says.

Andrew Lamason, who heads the department's Golden Bay office, said slips at the northern head of the park have closed the track there, and forced a re-think on future management.

The Abel Tasman National Park is the country's smallest and one of its most visited spots. More than a quarter of a million people this year alone are expected to flock to the park that flanks the western edge of Tasman Bay.

The head of the region's economic development agency, Mark Rawson, said it has become Nelson-Tasman's main tourist magnet.

"The number one reason why people come to the Nelson-Tasman region, particularly international visitors, is Abel Tasman by a considerable margin."

The Abel Tasman track. Photo / Tracy Neal


What sets the park apart is the 60-kilometre walking track that hugs the coastline, from Marahau in the south to Wainui Bay in the north.

And that is also what makes it vulnerable.

This year the sea clawed away the northern edges of the coastal track, closing it to hikers. Mr Lamason said they are considering permanently moving parts of the track inland, in order to keep it open.

He said geotech reports link the slips to the storm surge generated by Cyclone Fehi five weeks ago. A re-think is now needed on how to maintain tracks that are at the mercy of the sea.

"There is no limitless bag of money so we have to think, 'how are we going to sustain this track, where do we have to be prudent and move away from the coast and what areas do we have to say, we can't access there any more'."

The storm surge also came too close for comfort to properties in Torrent Bay - an enclave of privately owned baches and homes mid-way into the park.

Kayakers near Adele Island Photo / Tracy Neal

Tim McKay's family has owned a place there for close to a century.

He said after the storm surge from Fehi, some are now talking about raising buildings closest to the beach.

"A lot of places got a lot of sand through, and water. I think it's going to be an ongoing and increasingly serious problem for the bay."

Mr Lamason said they have moved other tracks inland in the past.

"We did something similar at Awaroa when we recognised we were losing land in the front there, so shifted it up on the hill. The outcome is probably some of the best views in the Abel Tasman. We're hoping we can achieve something similar at Anapai."

Awaroa Heads. Photo / Tracy Neal

Wally Bruce is a pioneer adventure tourism operator who moved from Marlborough to run guided tours on the track for seven years.

"The Abel Tasman undoubtedly has some magic that is not found anywhere else in New Zealand."

He said DOC's plan for the north of the track is disappointing because tourists expect to be able to reach the top end of it.

Mr Bruce said he paid hefty concession fees to operate in the park, and thought they were meant to help cover repair costs.

"I respect what DOC is planning on doing but I think there's a short-term goal and that would be a temporary track around the slip areas, and DOC could put a 'you're there at your own risk' sign up."

Mr Lamason said it was not that simple.

"It looks to the untrained eye you could put a little track there and you'd be fine. On one of the slips, yes, but on the second one we have what's called a gantry walkway bridge and that's on very unstable ground, so much so that we've tied that bridge to a tree and we're hoping to get a heavy-lift helicopter in to take it apart, and take it out completely."

Mark Rawson said DOC has made some focused decisions which the regional agency supports.

"They're trying to get the best resources to come up with a long-term solution that will deliver a better visitor experience."

DOC nationally was allocated $76 million over four years to help with visitor infrastructure in the last Budget.

It currently spends about $800,000 a year on huts, tracks, campsites and maintenance in the Abel Tasman National Park.

This article was originally published by RNZ.


Relax at Ambler, a new contemporary cafe-bistro in Point Chev
92505 2018-06-18 09:49:29Z Auckland Eats

Relax at Ambler, a new contemporary cafe-bistro in…

by Kate Milliken

Julien Albe and Matthieu Gosset's new venture Ambler has been a long time coming.

Read more
'Stay safe': The problem with telling women how not to be attacked by a man
92495 2018-06-18 07:09:25Z Social issues

'Stay safe': The problem with telling women how no…

by Bianca Fileborn

The rape and murder of a young comedian in Melbourne this week sparked outrage - fuelled by police telling women to "stay safe".

Read more
Jacinda Ardern's challenging last full week as Prime Minister
92490 2018-06-18 06:10:16Z Politics

Jacinda Ardern's challenging last full week as Pri…

by Jane Patterson

If Jacinda Ardern was hoping for an easy slide into maternity leave, her main coalition partner wasn't helping her.

Read more
Why Melania Trump is the reluctant First Lady
92500 2018-06-18 00:00:00Z World

Why Melania Trump is the reluctant First Lady

by Joanne Black

Even before her recent “disappearance”, US First Lady Melania Trump’s commitment to the role was publicly doubted.

Read more
How to know if you have coeliac disease
92118 2018-06-18 00:00:00Z Health

How to know if you have coeliac disease

by The Listener

Coeliac NZ suggests you consider getting tested if you have some or all of the following symptoms of coeliac disease.

Read more
For coeliac disease sufferers, there's hope of treatment on the horizon
92091 2018-06-18 00:00:00Z Nutrition

For coeliac disease sufferers, there's hope of tre…

by Nicky Pellegrino

As many as 100,000 New Zealanders, many of them undiagnosed, are afflicted by coeliac disease.

Read more
As Jacinda Ardern takes her baby exit - the show goes on
92466 2018-06-17 00:00:00Z Politics

As Jacinda Ardern takes her baby exit - the show g…

by Graham Adams

The PM can happily go off on maternity leave knowing there is a cast of colourful and capable people to fill the gap — most notably Winston Peters.

Read more
The Spanish flu pandemic killed more than WWI. Are we prepared for the next?
92222 2018-06-17 00:00:00Z Health

The Spanish flu pandemic killed more than WWI. Are…

by Sally Blundell

This year marks a century since a flu pandemic killed 9000 NZers. Three more such plagues have swept the world since then – and another is inevitable.

Read more