Lessons for developing Surf break policy

Overall, analysis of the NZCPS Board of Inquiry recommendations and existing approaches to surf break protection policy display a number of key learnings: 

a) The requirement for explicit recognition of surf breaks between relevant statutory provisions rather than relying on consideration of general values/issues (e.g. water quality, access, natural character).

b) The need for a robust methodology for identifying and rating a representative range of surf breaks.

c) General values (e.g. water quality, access, natural character) are important but there is a need to recognise where natural processes create an important recreational resource that has social, cultural and economic benefits for the wider community – i.e. as a greater/additional value created by the unique feature that is a surf break.

d) That these general values associated with surf breaks are not limited to the predominantly high quality breaks identified as nationally significant in policy 16 – i.e. scope for recognising local breaks that foster surfing communities and cater for all levels of surfers is also important at a regional level.  These could include ‘nursery’ breaks that have high recreation value for a variety of reasons (e.g. ‘regionally significant’ breaks may also include popular town beaches).

e) That specific aspects of the definition of ‘surf break’ are important concepts to include in policy development.  For example: swell, currents, water levels, seabed morphology, and wind are all components of surf breaks and any activities that impact these physical processes could adversely affect surfing wave quality and consistency. 

f) The definition of a surf break covers a large spatial extent, far beyond the location/area of wave riding. The swell corridor of a surf break  typically extends far out to sea (beyond the 12 nautical mile mark), and activities such as aquaculture, dredge spoil disposal and wave energy infrastructure at certain scales could block/interrupt or modify waves travelling through the swell corridor.

g) That avoidance of effects is appropriate for policy making, as mitigation or remediation of a surf break is typically difficult or impracticable.  Further to this, the precautionary approach should be taken toward management of breaks when considering threats where there is a lack of scientific understanding of coastal processes influencing a surf break.   

h) Surf break protection must cover the coastal environment, and not be restricted to the confines of the Coastal Marine Area (CMA).  This is another key development tested in the BOI process that accepted submissions to this effect (DoC, 2009a).   This is because activities beyond the CMA can potentially effect surf breaks such as land based discharges effecting water quality and sedimentation, and restriction of public access to a break.   

Last updated at 10:38AM on November 17, 2017