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Surf spot 'Airport Rights' in Wellington under threat




Environment Updates

Break is one of the city's most powerful big wave spots

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 9 January, 2015 - The Wellington Boardriders Club (WBC ) and the Surfbreak Protection Society (SPS) are both concerned about the loss of “Airport Rights,” a heavy wave at the end of the airport runway that will disappear if the airport extension goes ahead.

Airport Rights is part of the naturally existing reef system that has already been mostly reclaimed by the airport developments since 1959, says Wellington Boardriders spokesperson James Whitaker.

SPS spokesperson Mike Gunson agrees. “Some surfers won’t surf Airport Rights because of rubble from the historical airport reclamation in the line up, that includes steel reinforcing rods. However, it is one of the city’s most powerful big wave spots and is enjoyed by those who are brave enough to tackle it”.

As well as the loss of the surfbreak, both WBC and SPS are concerned that the lengthened runway will reduce the amount of surfable days at the corner due to swell refraction, especially from a south easterly direction as wave energy dissipates down the lengthened wall.

Both WBC and SPS say that this scenario would make waves on an already small day, unsurfable at the corner.



A study in 2001 found that Lyall Bay only has approximately 27 quality surfing days a year, where the Bay probably gets closer to a hundred days a year that are small, suitable for long boards and learners. A swell shadow caused by the extension obviously has the potential to greatly reduce small surfable days at the corner.

The New Zealand Coastal Policy Statement 2010 lends protection to surfbreaks of national significance says Michael Gunson, and the Board of Inquiry to the NZCPS recognised Lyall Bay as being a nationally significant nursery surfbreak.

Both WBC and SPS will be utilising the submission process for the extension as much as possible to ensure the best outcomes for Lyall Bay.

It would also be good if WIAL could clarify a matter for the public regarding a comment from Airport spokesman Greg Thomas in the 15/12/2014 Dominion Post article “Wellington runway plan ‘threat to surf break’ where Mr Thomas states that the extension is to be 350 meters – all previous media releases refer to the extension being 300 meters.

Environment Court mediation between SPS and Ports of Otago in 2013 has resulted in surf quality at two nationally significant surfbreaks Aramoana and Whareakeake being enhanced due to swell focussing.

“We would like our surf scientists to caucus with WIAL preferably before the formal consent process begins” says Mike Gunson of SPS.

Both WBC and SPS state that they are not necessarily opposed to an airport extension; we just want the best outcome for surfing at Lyall Bay.

However both organisations find it a bit ironic that they are facing a submission process to protect our surfing heritage exactly 100 years since Olympic champion and father of modern surfing – the legendary Duke Kahanamoko first surfed Lyall Bay.

Wellington, Airport Rights, Surf, Big Wave, Surfbreak Protection, New Zealand

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