A new report from the State of California projects up to 2/3 of their iconic southern beaches may completely erode back to the landward limit of coastal infrastructure or cliffs by the end of the century because of sea level rise. Consider for a moment what the impact will be if up to two thirds of Coromandel beaches are progressively erased off the face of the earth within one generation.
Sure, there will be differences between here and California in terms of the topography, wave action and the other factors which influence erosion. But even if the impact was at the lower end of projections and one third of Coromandel beaches were eradicated, the effect on the local economy would be devastating. The possibility exists that the impacts here will be greater than in California? When we talk about Coromandel beaches we often think, Buffalo Beach, Cooks Beach, Hot Water Beach Tairua, Pauanui and Whangamata. But this scenario would also include beaches on the western side such as Te Mata, Tapu, Te Puru, and Waiomu etc.
These are very hard to comprehend and inconvenient truths, and it is understandable that some people refuse to face up to them. Seeing a memorial plinth to Capt Cook topple into the tide due to beach erosion is one thing. The speed and extent of the erosion already underway is plain to see from these photos.
Having entire beaches progressively stripped of their sand back to the cliffs within one generation is an entirely different beast.
But if we are serious about adaptation and sound planning, we cannot continue with “business as usual” and allow rampant development near our beaches. We have the warnings staring us in the face that within many of our lifetimes, and certainly within the lifetime of our children and grandchildren, many of our iconic beaches will be lost forever.
We will also have to completely rethink the basis of our local economy. One of the main reasons why so many people come to visit the Coromandel may no longer exist or be seriously curtailed. We will still have a reasonably pleasant (although warmer and much wetter) climate, some fertile soils, some excellent recreational activities inland on conservation land. Boating should still be an attraction? So long as road transport links can be maintained, we will still have a desirable place to reside and visit. But we would be very foolish indeed to think that the devastating effects projected for Southern California’s beaches will not happen here.¶
Here is a direct quote from the report –
“In a recent study, researchers use the CoSMoS model to simulate the long-shore and cross-shore transport of sand and other processes, and to estimate the dynamic, long-term impacts of SLR and waves on 500 km (312 miles) of coastline in Southern California. The simulation of the historical period (1995-2010) shows excellent agreement with observations. The future simulations estimate that 31 to 67 percent of Southern California beaches may become completely eroded to the landward limit of coastal infrastructure or cliffs by the end of the century, assuming SLR scenarios from 0.9 to 2 m (3 to 6.6 ft) and limited human intervention”