Wellington Scoop

Lyall Bay surf breaks at “substantial risk” from runway extension plan

News from Surfbreak Protection Society
The Surfbreak Protection Society (SPS) is very concerned that Wellington International Airport Ltd is attempting to railroad through its runway extension by way of the Environment Court, as it has not yet made its arguments through articulated science-based debate.

In March, SPS questioned the sincerity of WIAL’s proposed mitigation of a swell focussing reef, while at the same time the airport company were seeking the deletion of policies that protect surf breaks, by way of WIAL’s submission to the Greater Wellington Regional Council’s Proposed Natural Resources Plan (PNRP).

WIAL have yet again demonstrated their statement of intent, in pursuing the deletion of protection for the region’s surf breaks, and in particular, Lyall Bay’s revered Corner surf break in the PNRP, by way of a further submission to the plan.

In plain words, WIAL are telling surfers that the company is obligated to protect Lyall Bay’s surfing amenity “overall”, yet on the other hand, are aggressively attacking the very legal obligations for them to do so, by seeking these policy changes.

SPS, along with the Wellington Boardriders Club and other concerned local surfers, have been consulting with WIAL since May last year. WIAL submitted to the PNRP on 25 September, but would have been working on their submission long before that.

The attack on surfbreak policies, combined with WIAL ignoring the recommendations of our proven adaptive management plan conditions sought through consultation, leaves the future of Lyall Bay’s surf breaks at substantial risk. To that end, SPS can have no confidence in the overtures made to Wellington’s surfing community by WIAL’s External Relations and Marketing Manager about WIAL’s promises in perpetuity, to maintain and if possible enhance Lyall Bay’s surfing amenity value.

“A robust Assessment of Environmental Effects (AEE) is essential, especially for a project of this magnitude, yet the design concepts for the swell focus structure in the middle of Lyall Bay differ significantly from one preliminary report to the next,” says SPS research and communications officer Mike Gunson.

WIAL are offering a “notion” of what may be possible without applying proper precautionary principles in the Coastal Marine Area, and expecting the Wellington surfing community to have faith in WIAL’s “desired outcomes.”

SPS are of the view that WIAL’s “rush job” on forcing the issue without true and proper public debate, along with impact assessment studies that raise more red flags than they answer, leaves SPS with no alternative than to reject WIAL’s proposed airport extension and focus reef structure.

SPS recognise that the Guardians of the Bays have continuously put up articulated debate on a number of points about the impacts and viability of the proposed extension, as have SPS and our scientific/legal counsel regarding the significant impacts on surfing.

SPS asks: if this is such an important infrastructure development for the region, why is WIAL aggressively shutting down articulated debate? SPS looks forward to a close working relationship between ourselves and Guardians of the Bays.

SPS encourages the NZ surfing community to contribute to the Guardians of the Bay Givealittle fundraiser as a first line of defence for Lyall Bay’s surf breaks.

email: info@surfbreak.org.nz


  1. Dr Sea Rotmann, 2. May 2016, 11:05

    We were quite shocked to hear that, on the one hand, WIAL was making big hay out of ‘consulting’ and ‘working with’ the surfing community to ensure the breaks won’t get destroyed, when on the other hand there were machinations behind their backs to remove the protection from the Natural Resources Plan. One of the many times the airport has shown its true face, which is the opposite of a ‘good neighbour’.

  2. Michael Gunson, 3. May 2016, 17:12

    Forest and Bird are an original submitter that supports the surfbreak protection policies in the Wellington Regional Council’s Proposed Natural Resources Plan.

    WIAL made a further submission on the 29th of March, a couple of weeks after SPS made it perfectly clear that SPS, and Wellington surfers, were not happy that WIAL was seeking the deletion of objectives and policies that lend protection to surf breaks, and in particular, The Corner Surf break, the best spot (of its type e.g. sandbar) to surf in Lyall Bay for surfers of intermediate to advanced ability in Wellington.

    In WIAL’s further submission they oppose F&B support of the surf break policy in its entirety, WIAL continue to seek the deletion of protection of all policies regarding protection of surf breaks, but most of all, the Corner.


    WIAL have released a couple of papers, one regarding perceived impacts on Lyall Bay’s surf breaks, stating unknown effects with wave driven currents impacting on the Corner, yet stating that effects will be minimal. WIAL is not beholden to Official Information Act Requests, what data they gather, decide to gather, and what they choose to release, is entirely up to the majority stakeholder. The experts that SPS bring on board can at best review what has been published so far, and point to the red flags. WIAL are limiting the caucusing of our science with theirs.

    WIAL have told us that they only need two months of monitoring data to predict effects on the Corner and Lyall Bay, but does that come from DHI surf scientist Simon Mortensen, or WIAL’s Queenstown /Dunedin based planning consultant Claire Hunter?

    Due to this one step removal of public accountability, we, the public, may never know.