Patiti Point [44°25'S 171°16'E] is a small promontory immediately to the south of Timaru. A reef breaks the seas, and provides safe passage for boats which in the past landed about where the Timaru Creek outfall pipe is today. In the early days the Hine te Kura stream spilled out here, and it was a gathering place for Maori fishing parties and for shore whalers. By 1875 Peeress Town was established, a small community where settlers were housed temporarily on arrival, and which later fell into disrepute and was demolished. Today Patiti Point is a pleasant parking spot, and a place to walk the dog. The scrubby foreshore of South Beach provides coastal defence for the clay cliff atop which are the colourful cottages of South Street.
Kiran Chug, writing in the Dominion Post today, draws our attention to new predictions from the Antarctic Research Centre: “Scientists are predicting seas will rise higher than the levels the Environment Ministry advises local councils to plan for. The director of the Antarctic Research Centre, Tim Naish, said the international community now believed sea levels could rise by 1.9 metres. Dr Naish said he believed that the new figures would impress the urgency of the problem upon policy makers. They were particularly relevant for New Zealand, where such a large portion of the population lived on the coastline, he said.” —Dominion Post
Meanwhile Environment Minister Nick Smith is reported as saying his office plans to stick with previous predictions of a rise of 59 cms.
Earth system scientists continue to warn that while Earth has powerful self-correcting mechanisms the ways in which these mechanisms will achieve their end may be detrimental to man. It is a half century since James Lovelock invented the electron capture detector (the device that detected CFCs in the upper atmosphere and the hole in the ozone layer, sparking this whole debate); but world leaders are still trying to arrive at any kind of a workable accord with which to go ahead and make meaningful globally-scoped changes.
What does this mean for Timaru’s South Beach? Well, hopefully it means would-be developers will find it hard to convince investors their money is safe. At least until the next IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report is published in 2013 it may be hard to finance major projects as close to existing sea level as South Beach. After the publication of the next IPCC report it may be impossible for would-be developers to finance such projects.
Ian Waite and Pam Booth dipped the Samoan flag in respect of those who died in the tsunami of Tuesday 29th September. In the days after the earthquake and tsunami the death toll rose to around 190 people who perished.
According to the director of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii, Charles McCreery (the Dominion Post reported, Friday) “You have a lot of earthquakes, you’re right on the border between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, so you have a big seismic risk, and you have some history of tsunami. If a really big earthquake rips, it will send waves to New Zealand,” the Dominion Post quoted him as saying. Niwa principal scientist Rob Bell said when a tsunami hit New Zealand after coming thousands of kilometers, the biggest waves could arrive hours after the first ones. “What happens is they reflect and bounce off undersea shelf systems. It’s like creating a disturbance in a pond, the waves will hit other waves. It gets pretty chaotic,” Bell was quoted as saying.
On the morning of the recent Samoa tsunami people watching breakfast television were getting mixed messages. One of the big trawlers came out of the harbour and went to anchor. Later in the day the warning was cancelled. It brought it home to residents of the south end of town that tsunamis, although historically never catastrophic, remain a very real possibility. The foreshore with its self-seeding shrubs and gorse and the council’s plantings provides good protection, as does the railway line at the foot of the clay bank. Especially the north end of the South Beach No.1 Store is at risk of inundation in the event that the arrival of a tsunami coincided with high tide.
We all felt blessed by the weather, the calm sea, Ian’s flags and the good turn-out for the blessing by Bruce Wikitoa of Rob d’Auverne’s sculpture Icthys. Icthys now presides over the foreshore, seeking the breeze, and attracting a constant stream of local and overseas visitors. This charming spot has been dubbed “the Village Green” by residents.
Washingtons Drilling & Exploration were on the foreshore today, they’re getting core samples. I was asked what I was doing taking this photograph, and quizzed about whether I thought I was trespassing. There’ll be a fence and security guards next. I hope the guards know that I, like them, am a shareholder. Older residents say there was dumping of toxic waste, along by the Queen Street crossing. That’s a subject everybody’s going to skirt around if they can. Perhaps it would be better to investigate it now, rather than after a powdered milk store has been built there. Certainly there was general dumping by the railways. What is more amazing is that the 50-year hazard line goes right through the proposed development site. What do investors make of that?
We’re not sure if the Timaru ratepayers would be aware that Prime Port plan a second milk store. It would be so big that it would extend from the existing milk store right down to the old block works abutment, and would completely dominate the foreshore. Anyway, the test pits dug two weeks ago were exploratory to check out the foundations. The two test pits shown in the photograph mark the southern-most footings. Presumably the fence with the signs saying ‘no access’ will be quite a bit south of that again. Why is it that our council are so arrogant that they think projects of this scale can win approval without public consultation? Or do they keep these things quiet hoping to advance them to the point of no return before we find out? Legally Prime Port may be within their rights, but is it not ill-timed with milk prices at a twenty-year low, with the big container ships gone, with a tug we don’t need still to be paid for, with the first store far from full, and with large vacant sections of the port industrial zone unconsolidated and under-utilised? The Port Company returned a marginal profit this year, but next year isn’t going to look so good. Unless of course they can do some clever stuff with utilisation of the land. Is it that we actually need this shed? Or is it simply property speculation at a time when most people have the sense to be tightening their belts, instead of sticking their necks out?
A rough computer sketch showing the scale of the proposed structure.
High tides, high seas, but a not particularly low barometer caused exciting conditions at Patiti Point this July. Teenagers played chicken with the waves as they broke and swirled around the outfall pipe. Conditions like this are rare, but seem to be on the increase according to a number of local observers.
Today the developer withdrew the “Application for land use consent No.6739 proposed Betts Tribute Centre” adjacent to Patiti Point. Friends of Patiti Point are very relieved to hear this news, because for the time being at least the threat of an unwanted development has been removed. People who love the area should stay alert to the fact that this piece of land will possibly now be offered on the open market, and somebody may buy it, and they too may want to develop it in ways that are not appropriate. Meanwhile, we can relax, and enjoy!
An April 2008 archaelogical assessment prepared by Rosie Geary Nichol and Katherine Watson for Grant Mitchell Design and Associates recognises the possible significance of the Patiti Point site.
Note that the report is not referring to the adjacent Patiti Point Reserve, but to the flat paddock at approximately sea level that was the site of the proposed development. The report makes interesting reading, and most certainly does not dismiss the site in the way that TDC and the developer had. Points of particular interest in the report include:
- “the site appealed to successive groups”
- “the section has the potential to be rich in archaelogical material”
- “the proposal to develop…may destroy…an archaelogical site”
- “it is illegal to destroy, damage or modify an archaelogical site etc.”
If you want to read the full report enquire at TDC Planning Office.
Friends of Patiti Point wish to thank Jeff Elston for valuable preliminary work he did in this regard, drawing everybody’s attention to the significance of the site.