Beach under unstable Cape Kidnappers' cliff to re-open

Newstalk ZB, Hawkes Bay Today,
Publish Date
Tuesday, 5 March 2019, 4:02p.m.
The beach at Cape Kidnappers has been closed since January 23 due to a large slip which injured two people. (Photo / File)

The beach under Cape Kidnappers will be reopened by the Hastings District Council, despite a report saying it will put lives at risk.

It's a decision that now leaves the council opened to being prosecuted and fined by WorkSafe were a slip on one of NZ's most iconic day walks to kill or injure anyone else.

Clifton Beach has been closed since January 23, when two Korean tourists were seriously injured during a large slip. Since then at least two more large slips have occurred at the site.

Councillors voted 7-5 at a meeting on Tuesday morning to go against a geologist's recommendation to keep the beach closed until a risk assessment was completed.

Howeverm Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst voted against the reopening said all measures possible would be put in place to ensure public safety.

"Obviously it is most important for our council to make sure we keep our community safe, that is our biggest priority here."

She told Larry Williams that all councillors felt the risk assessment should have been carried out first, prior to opening the beach.

"Where I felt differently was whether we opened the beach and took all measures to litigate risk before the quantitative risk assessment work has been taken out, which is going to take about six months." 

Hazlehurst says that other councillors thought that the assessment could take place while the beach is opened. 

She says that the two tourists who were injured are an example of what could go wrong. 

"It has been a very difficult time for them, I have visited them in hospital." 

She said her concern lay with people visiting Hawke's Bay, rather than locals who already had more of a knowledge of the area's potential risks.

Hazlehurst says that they hope to see proper signage put up soon. 

The decision will allow the beach to be reopened once signs have been put in place to help users understand the risk.

The risk assessment will then take place over the next six months. It will cost council an expected $300,000 of unbudgeted money.

The Department of Conservation (DoC) is taking a different route to council, and has decided to keep public conservation land at Cape Kidnappers closed, despite it being well away from the slip site.

Gannet Beach Adventures owner Colin Lindsay said the decision was a positive one for the people for Hawke's Bay.

He said they were now waiting for council to the finalise smaller details, before they decided when to reopen and in what form.

Lindsay said DoC's track leads from the beach to the upper gannet colony, preventing part, but not all of his tour.

"Our tag line is four million years in four hours, we'll have to change that to four million years in three hours."

They will still be access the lower colony, and the other gannet tour group, Gannet Safaris, will still be able to access the upper colony by going overland.

Geologist Matt Shore told the council before it made its decision on Tuesday that a Quantitative Risk Assessment was considered standard practice when considering loss of life.

Shore's report found there was a potential for multiple injuries or fatalities.