Round one complete in surf tower’s battle against nature

The wraps were set to come off the Ngarunui Beach lookout tower this week to reveal nothing more sinister than freshly sandblasted and painted steelwork.

Shrouded in white plastic, the 10-year-old tower has – from a distance – looked eerily like a serious crime scene in recent weeks.

But the only fight there has been is one to contain corrosion from salt-laden coastal winds.

“The elements had got at it,” said Raglan Surf Life Saving Club spokesman Bruce MacKinnon of the work to shore up the structure.

He told the Chronicle how scaffolding was first erected to access the steel frame which holds the tower deck and roof, then the lot was shrink-wrapped in special industrial plastic to enable all-weather work and to contain the sandblasting materials for removal. 

This process required heat to shrink the tough polythene tightly into place, he said.

Heat-welding a protective covering of plastic to itself is a common practice these days at construction and renovation sites.

Bruce – a surf club board member with responsibility for finance and revenue – said the lookout tower work had been carried out courtesy of a $30,000 Government funding round to Surf Life Saving New Zealand.

A final part of the work came last weekend when a contractor re-installed the glass balustrade around the first-floor deck. 

With the steelwork repainted, the worst threat to the structure now was beach erosion, Bruce said. 

“Water is lapping at the doorstep of the tower and eating away at the end of the asphalt where access ramps have been placed,” he added. “There’s a big drop down (to the beach).”

A recent storm along with some high tides had taken another two centimetres away from the sand dunes directly in front of the lookout tower, he estimated. 

Raglan Surf Life Saving Club needed to raise its erosion concerns again with Waikato District Council, Bruce said, and work out a plan to save not only the tower but also the new shower/toilet facilities installed opposite only last season.

He is currently working on an application for funding towards erosion control.

The tower, which has a concrete block basement for first-aid supplies and emergency treatment, was built by local company Fitzgerald & Gillard well back from the high tide mark in 2011.  

The $180,000 project was financed by four years’ of local funds plus grants from WEL Energy Trust, Surf Life Saving Northern Region, Raglan Lions Club and Trust Waikato.

Edith Symes