Breakwater shut until safety check


January 14, 2020 - 72 views

A health and safety risk assessment will be done before the Waitaki District Council applies to allow the public back on to the breakwater at Oamaru Harbour.

The council learned in June it was in breach of its consent for the breakwater if it allowed public access to the 1872 Heritage New Zealand category 1 structure.

Soon thereafter it applied for a variation to the resource consent, but last week council assets group manager Neil Jorgensen said, on advice from Canadian management and consultancy service WPS Global Inc, it would conduct a review to "formalise" its understanding of the risk associated with public access to help with the consenting process.

"I guess we tried to do something quite quickly ... essentially we need to do more work on it and get more background in place before we proceed.

"And it’s been recommended to us by doing this safety review it gives us a good basis of information to actually show we’ve got some evidence of what it actually means [to have] the public on there."

Last year the Otago Regional Council provided the Otago Daily Times with its 2007 coastal permit, a two-page consent that includes six conditions.

Condition number 4 reads: "The public shall not have access to either the breakwater or the causeway."

The council has locked gates and erected signage to keep the public off the breakwater, but people still walk along the breakwater during the day and at night crowds gather to watch penguins come ashore at its base which connects to the Oamaru Blue Penguin Colony.

"We’ve got signage out there. The gate’s closed after dark and the other gate is closed at the penguin colony. There’s always ways people get on to things if they really want to. What else do you do?

"We’re hiring a security contractor to ask people to leave if they’re there. I don’t know what else we can do at this stage."

Dealing with the crowds at night was "kind of another issue", Mr Jorgensen said.

"But also, there’s a massive safety risk there if a big wave came over if people were there and weren’t watching the sea."

A spokesman for the regional council said the organisation was ‘‘awaiting a resource consent application in regards to the breakwater".

"This is expected early this year," he said.

"The scope of information that this application will include is up to Waitaki District Council, as well as being set out in the Resource Management Act 1991 and Regional Plan."

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