Gisborne council meets over safety at slash-covered beach after death of child

On Thursday morning Waikanae beach, the scene of a fatal incident involving a boy on Wednesday night, was covered in slash.

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On Thursday morning Waikanae beach, the scene of a fatal incident involving a boy on Wednesday night, was covered in slash.

Gisborne District Council are meeting now to decide the advice for residents about the slash on Waikanae beach because after a Wellington boy died following an incident last night at the beach.

A police spokesperson said the child sustained an injury on the beach and died a short time later.

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Gisborne mayor Rehette Stoltz said the council was investigating where the huge amount of debris on Waikanae Beach had originated from.

“We will also continue our own investigation into the origin of the woody debris and support calls for an independent inquiry into future land use in Tairāwhiti. The state of our waterways is unacceptable.”

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The Gisborne District Council was currently meeting to consider what advice to give residents about safety at the beach, she said.

In recent times, the beach has been covered in wood and debris following the battering by Cyclone Hale about a fortnight ago.

Stoltz said the police informed her last night that the child who died was aged 12.

She said she was “devastated” by the news.

“On behalf of our community, we send our condolences, our love and support to this family dealing this morning with this unimaginable loss,” she said.

Log debris and slash along Waikanae Beach, Gisborne, on Thursday morning.  Surfers can still be seen along the beach with their boards.

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Log debris and slash along Waikanae Beach, Gisborne, on Thursday morning. Surfers can still be seen along the beach with their boards.

She and the council would contact the family to offer support, Stoltz said.

A karakia took place at Waikanae beach last night and while there was no rāhui in place, Stoltz understood one would be announced shortly.

She did not know how the child was injured in the incident, but she was expecting more information from a police briefing later on Thursday.

“We understand the death has been referred to the coroner and we will cooperate fully with the coroner’s investigation,” she said.

Slash has proved to be a problem on the beach recently.

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Slash has proved to be a problem on the beach recently.

Locals spoken to by Stuff said they had seen surfers out in the water near the scene of the incident this morning.

Surf Life Saving New Zealand spokesperson Rob McGregor said

the beach was officially closed due to water quality at the time of the incident, and he understood lifeguards were not on duty.

A Gisborne local, who wished to remain anonymous, said the incident took place outside the Waikanae Beach Surf Life Saving Club.

Brennan Thomas/Supplied

The Tūranganui River was high in Gisborne on Wednesday morning after Cyclone Hale drenched the region overnight.

The local said slash had proved to be a problem on the beach recently, with children seen playing in and around debris. When the tide was high and the surf was rough, which they were last night, slash would often be spread throughout the shore and surf.

Clearing slash debris from beaches is a regular occurrence across Tairāwhiti, with storms washing forestry and wooded debris through the rivers into the sea.

Clean up following Cyclone Hale began on Monday on Waikanae and Midway beaches with support from the forestry industry, according to a post on the council’s Facebook page.

Stoltz said the clean-up process would likely be ongoing for some time.

“This is not something that happens in days or weeks, it takes quite a lot of time,” she said.

Log debris and slash along Waikanae Beach, Gisborne, on Thursday morning.

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Log debris and slash along Waikanae Beach, Gisborne, on Thursday morning.

Gisborne District Council spends hundreds of thousands of dollars removing the slash in the lead up to summer and often following large storm events.

In 2021, it spent $344,000 on the clean-up across the city and Uawa beaches, clearing about 275 cubic meters of woody debris in October.

Tairāwhiti Gisborne locals launched a petitionwith more than 8500 signatures, seeking a raft of changes to the way forestry is carried out in the region, so destruction caused by storm events like Cyclone Hale can be avoided.

The petitionorganized by Mana Taiao Tairāwhiti, a group including farmers and horticulturalists, Māori landowners and conservation workers, called on local and central government to do more to reduce erosion sediment and forestry slash from entering waterways.

The child’s death would be referred to the coroner.

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