Storm good news for lagoon

Saturday January 04, 2020 Written by Published in Environment
Influx of water has cleansing effect, says National Environment Service director. Influx of water has cleansing effect, says National Environment Service director.

The tail end of cyclone Sarai didn’t bring all bad news on New Year’s Day: The lagoon on the western side of the island of Rarotonga was flushed clean with new water. 

National Environment Service director Nga Puna says Muri would have benefited from the same flushing had the storm reached that side of the island.

“The lagoon always looks forward to a good clean up from the cyclones as it gets sediments built up from floods and rains over the year. 

“It’s actually better for the lagoon health to get a good flushing out by the big waves and high sea.”

Puna says better controls and management of land clearance and development is in the pipeline as part of the NES Act 2003 review. He hopes this will be enacted by the end of this year or early 2021.

Meanwhile, much of the storm debris is still to be cleared. Arorangi resident Henry Howard is one of many Arorangi residents whose seaside back yards were strewn with debris. He puts that down to the angle that the storm hit from.

“In and out, the same sand or debris is going up and down. When it’s coming on an angle it’s taking out of my place and dumping it three, four or five houses down or scouring 100 metres up the road and dumping it down here.”

Henry, who has observed the behaviour of the western tide most of his life, says coastal erosion is a major concern now, with sand from inland filling the lagoon. 

“I remember 60 years ago, to get from here to the reef you would go maybe 20 metres at low tide and the water would be up to your neck. And it would stay up to your neck until you got to the reef.”

“Today when you go at low tide from here to the reef, halfway across you’re still only knee-deep.”  

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