'Sand sausages' protect Dunedin from coastal erosion

'Sand sausages' protect Dunedin from coastal erosion

The Dunedin City Council has started a repair job on one of its best weapons to fight coastal erosion -- sausages.

Sand-bag sausages protect the beach, and the properties near the coast. But they may only be a short-term fix.

The sea is notoriously rough on Dunedin's coast -- so much so it can put lives at risk.

But properties are potentially in the firing line too, with land eroding at the south-facing St Clair beach.

"The track's totally gone, so where that digger is, that arm, it's basically straight through there," says resident Conrad Stedman.

Mr Stedman has lived along the coast since he was a boy. He says coastal erosion is putting his property at risk.

"Bit nerve-racking, you wondering what is going to happen, whether it's actually going to affect your asset."

So-called "sand sausages" designed to protect the coast were damaged last winter. The council has started repair work on them in a bid to slow erosion.

"You've got what's called an 'end wall', so you've got energy of waves hitting a solid object like the seawall and it's being pushed in an easterly direction and it's sucking out the sand and the beach at that end," says ecologist Paul Pope.

Mr Pope says planning in the past hasn't been adequate for the shifting landscape.

Coastal erosion is a threat that's predicted to worsen in New Zealand and around the world as sea levels continue to rise due to human-induced climate change.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has identified almost 10,000 coastal properties that could be damaged by erosion over the coming decades, and the Insurance Council has warned against the risk of owning waterfront land.

In Dunedin, Mr Pope says the sand sausages should provide some short-term relief.

"They are a short- to medium-term fix in dealing with this particular issue here until we see a much longer and wider strategy."

That strategy, he says, is likely to cost significant time, effort and money.