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Moturiki and Mauao base track remain closed

Dangerous sea swells have resulted in both Moturiki and the Mount base track being closed to public access until Monday morning when the situation will be reassessed. Photo: Jamie Troughton.

Click the image above to watch the video

6.30pm update: Moturiki - also known as Leisure Island -  and the Mauao base track both remain closed tonight due to the heavy sea swells posing a danger to the public.

 

"We will reassess it tomorrow morning at 7am,' says Tauranga City Council Natural Environment Adviser for Mauao Josh Clark.

 

The next high tide is due at 4.35am Monday morning.

 

Moturiki and the Mauao base track were cordoned off to the public this afternoon about 2.30pm, as full tide was at 4.14pm and the sea swells were increasingly putting the public in the near vacinity at risk. Josh said the closures would be reassessed about two hours folowing the afternoon high tide.

 

Two hours following high tide, Moturiki was still unsafe for people to access. Photo: Rosalie Liddle Crawford.

Waves were seen breaking 15 metres higher than people standing watching on the rocks at Moturiki this afternoon. Photo: Jamie Troughton.

 

Police were called to Moturiki to help enforce the closure as many of the public continued to cross over the sand bar to the rock outcrops and Moturiki itself. There were also reports of Council staff being verbally abused by the public at the entrance to the Mauao base track.

 

Police checking to see that no one was out at Moturiki this evening. Photo: Rosalie Liddle Crawford.

 

The first swell arrived at the Mount beach around noon today. The MetService says the swells are due to a low-pressure system northeast of New Zealand which is forecast to bring very strong southeasterly winds and heavy swells for the east coast of the North Island. These swells are expected to continue for a few days.

 

On Sunday morning, the MetService said it was rapidly deepening - and even meeting the 'weather bomb' criteria which can cause storm surges, heavy rain, strong winds and large swells.

 

NIWA Weather says while the strongest winds will remain offshore, eastern coastal areas from Gisborne through to Northland will have gusts of near or more than 70 km per hour, mainly today.

 

These winds could generate immense waves, with a forecast showing over eight metres above New Zealand and around seven metres just off the east coast.

A parent with baby dashing to beat the waves a few hours before high tide, before Moturiki was cordoned off. Photo: Jamie Troughton.

2.30pm update:  Following a call from a SunLive journalist to Tauranga City Council, council staff have made the decision to close both Moturiki Island and the Mauao base track this afternoon due to dangerous sea swells.

“We are going to close Moturiki until about two hours after high tide, around 6pm,” says Tauranga City Council Natural Environment Adviser for Mauao Josh Clark.

Staff were sent to assess sea conditions at both Moturiki and the Mauao base track. High tide is expected around 4.14pm, and the closure will stay in place for a further two hours after that.

“We will come and reassess it at that point,” says Josh.

This morning at low tide, with sea sweeping up onto the beach around the access way to Moturiki, parents pushing prams and carrying babies were seen crossing over to the island to go and watch the waves that were crashing spectacularly on to the rocks.

Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service lifeguard Jamie Troughton had climbed to a vantage point on Mauao to assess the swell, and was concerned to see the number of people watching the waves from Moturiki.

“I saw spray from a wave go 15 metres above the heads of people standing on the end of Moturiki and a guy showed me a video of him being saturated while standing on the end, so it's a fairly decent swell event,” says Jamie.

“There are pretty long periods between the big sets but when they break, they're sweeping right around the base of Moturiki. You definitely wouldn't want to be caught by one of those surges."

Waves at Mount Main Beach. Photo: Jamie Troughton.

Jamie says this is the biggest swell of the year so far.

“It's right up there with the big swells we've had here over the past decade or so - there is some serious power in the waves and they're breaking a long way out to sea.

Josh is encouraging anyone who wants to watch the waves to climb up onto the slopes of Mauao instead.

In 2016, Hamish Rieger, 17, was washed into the sea at Moturiki by a large wave.  In October 2014 Jack Dixon, 5, was snatched from the seashore by a wave on the eastern side of Mount Maunganui during a family day out at Shelley Beach. Both lost their lives, and Jack’s body was never recovered.

"I couldn't bear having another child swept away," says the SunLive journalist who had contacted Council after seeing the waves earlier.

SunLive will update this story as more information comes to hand or as conditions may change.

Dangerous sea swells have resulted in both Moturiki and the Mount base track being closed to public access until at least 6pm. Photo: Rosalie Liddle Crawford.

Earlier, 1.30pm:

Lifeguards at Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service are warning the public to stay away from Moturiki Island this afternoon due to the highly unsafe sea conditions.

 

“Our lifeguards have been working with the Mauao ranger to help out as we are advising strenuously that people don’t go out on Moturiki Island today,” says Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Services’ Jamie Troughton.

 

Jamie has climbed to a vantage point on Mauao to gain a better perspective of the seriousness of the swell that’s been building, and is concerned to see people across at Moturiki watching the waves from a closer position.

 

“I saw spray from a wave go 15 metres above the heads of people standing on the end of Moturiki and a guy showed me a video of him being saturated while standing on the end, so it's a fairly decent swell event,” says Jamie.

 

“There are pretty long periods between the big sets but when they break, they're sweeping right around the base of Moturiki. You definitely wouldn't want to be caught by one of those surges."

 

Jamie says this is the biggest swell of the year so far.

 

“It's right up there with the big swells we've had here over the past decade or so - there is some serious power in the waves and they're breaking a long way out to sea.

 

“Even the surfers are staying out of the water today, which gives a pretty good indication of the conditions. If even the most experienced people are exercising caution, so should everyone else.”

 

High tide is not due until 4.14pm, but already at low tide this morning, the sea was sweeping up onto the beach with waves blocking off access to Moturiki for those, some with toddlers, who were waiting to cross over the sand to the island.

 

“We can’t stop people from going,” says Jamie, “but you’re putting your lives and other people’s lives at risk if you go out there.

 

“It’s not to be taken lightly.”

 

The first swell arrived at the Mount beach around noon. The MetService says the swells are due to a low-pressure system northeast of New Zealand which is forecast to bring very strong southeasterly winds and heavy swells for the east coast of the North Island.

 

The MetService says it's rapidly deepening - and even meeting the 'weather bomb' criteria which can cause storm surges, heavy rain, strong winds and large swells.

NIWA Weather says while the strongest winds will remain offshore, eastern coastal areas from Gisborne through to Northland will have gusts of near or more than 70 km per hour, mainly today.

 

These winds could generate immense waves, with a forecast showing over eight metres above New Zealand and around seven metres just off the east coast.

Jamie is also advising extreme caution around the Mount base track “especially as the tide comes in”.  Rogue waves can sweep up expectedly.

“It’s only going to get worse around the base track,” says Jamie. “I’d say that for two hours the other side of high tide, and for the rest of the day, everyone should stay clear of Moturiki and the Mount base track.”

SunLive contacted Tauranga City Council to enquire whether any safety measures were being implemented for the afternoon.

“Our contractor is heading to Mauao at the moment to make an assessment,” says Tauranga City Council Natural Environment Adviser for Mauao Josh Clark. “If it’s deemed unsafe we will close the Mount base track. If Moturiki is looking unsafe we will close that as well.”

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Atittudes ! !

Posted on 25-05-2021 09:17 | By SonnyJim

The BaySun highlights an obvious concern for public safety and gets denigrated for trying to alert the public to dangers obvious to most. So the Sun and others get clobbered for doing their job by spelling nitpickers and civil rights experts.

@dreemspina

Posted on 24-05-2021 17:06 | By morepork

There is a fine line between "scaredycats" and "reckless idiots". The video shows people with toddlers, putting them in potential harm’s way. These same parents would stop at nothing to keep their children safe under normal circumstances, but sometimes, excitement can cloud our better judgement. I have no problem with living life to the full and have done so for a number of decades. I’ve been shot at, bombed, and arrested, climbed mountains, swum rivers and trekked deserts; my track record shows no sign of "scaredycat". But I still didn’t go running out to look at the swell. It’s fine to take risks with your own life; not so to do it with other lives.

Torn...

Posted on 24-05-2021 16:52 | By morepork

... between the chance to see Nature’s truly awesome power and the risks attached to it, many of us will accept the risk and go for the experience. The thing you have to remember here is, that you could be putting others at risk if you get into real trouble, and that simply isn’t fair. I remember a pub discussion when seat belts were introduced; I strongly opposed the mandatory wearing of them as an assault on my rights. (I was a lot younger and more foolish than I am now...) Until a St. John guy in the group said: "That’s fine, , but come out with me and see the messes we have to clean up. What about MY rights?" It was a compelling argument and changed my mind. Perhaps we should leave it to the professionals to get video for us.... (thanks SunLive for pictures/words)

Scaredey cats everyone!

Posted on 24-05-2021 09:43 | By

My my, all the negative comments by those who have no excitement in their lives and just love to bad and insult the ones who like to live their lives to the full! Wake up and smell the flowers instead of moaning about what others do!

Gobsmacked.

Posted on 23-05-2021 22:57 | By Boobytrap

The amount of people running out to Leisure Island when the sea is rough and the tide is coming in, brainless.

Swell?

Posted on 23-05-2021 21:37 | By

this is nothing compared to what ive seen, the problem is many young never seen what past storms have done to the beach front, which are still visible if you know where to look, 1975/6 1980/1988 just to name a few, where there was no way you would leave the main dune to some 4m drop to the beach level

SO what happened to personal responsibility !!

Posted on 23-05-2021 20:19 | By The Caveman

"Tauranga City Council Natural Environment Adviser" - where and when did the person get this co-called title and job??? AND I would like to know -- what is the job description and SALARY !! Once upon a time - heading over to Rabbit Island in a go storm was a PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY. Once upon a time - walking around/up the Mount - was a PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY (and there was NO formed steps / tracks / walkways) !! NOW we have a COUNCIL employee ( with what qualifications??) telling the public that we cannot do what I have been doing for the last 60 years !! BRING BACK PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY !!! (OH and the Council cannot be sued under ACC law).

Close call

Posted on 23-05-2021 18:49 | By

Today showed how quickly things can turn with the ocean. From angle deep water for people crossing to within 15 mins waves washing through. One person was swept out from the island crossing and into Shark Alley while the rest of her family narrowly stayed on the island. Could have ended differently. Credit to the lifeguards for closing the island after that and for putting themselves at great risk by reclaiming the remaining people off the island in very treacherous conditions. Stay safe

Too late

Posted on 23-05-2021 16:33 | By Beauregarde

My wife was knocked off her feet by a wave and was floating before the water drained back into the sea. That was about 3pm. No warning signs then. Saturated and very cold by the time she was brought home.

Moturiki?

Posted on 23-05-2021 14:59 | By morepork

It is apparent from the photo that what I know as Leisure Island is being referred to here. No problem with calling it Moturiki, but there is a professional courtesy exercised by writers that when a word foreign to the language being used is FIRST used, it should be translated. Glad to see this was done with Rabbit Island, but please don’t just assume we are all PC and fluent in Te Reo... some of us are still working on it. If this piece was in Te Reo, it would need Maori translations of the terms "Rabbit Island" and "Leisure Island" the first time they were used; but, of course those names would not be used anyway...