Shifting sands close harbour channels to boats

Boaties in larger vessels can no longer safely use the Tilby and Wairoa harbour channels in Tauranga due to silting and shifting sand banks.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council will be removing the marker poles marking a safe channel for boating near Fergusson Park in Matua and the Wairoa River because the channels have silted up and created sandbanks where the channels used to join the main Western Channel.

Bay of Plenty Regional Council Deputy Harbour Master Chris Isherwood said the poles will have to be removed as the channels they mark are no longer navigable, except for small boats.

“At high tide there’s much less water where the channels meet with the main harbour than there used to be, and boats won’t be able to get in or out at low tide. People could find themselves grounded very quickly,” he said.

“Small boats can still use the channels, but very carefully and preferably not on an outgoing tide.”

Mr Isherwood said the silting was a natural occurrence and the channels could eventually become navigable again. It was caused by erosion of soil from surrounding land and tidal currents from other parts of the harbour.

While the river mouth could be frequently dredged, it was expensive. The Regional Council was working with land owners to manage land use to protect waterways and native bush while keeping the land productive.

“The Regional Council supports this approach by providing advice, and in some cases funding, to fence waterways, plant trees and control pests.”

Signs warning of the shallow water will be erected near boat ramps in the area.