Monday, June 13, 2011

plus ça change, plus ce'est la même chose

"The more things change the more they stay the same." So said Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr and you'd have to say he certainly nailed it when it comes to contemporary artists and coastline protection in New Zealand.

News in last week that Dick Frizzell is hot on the case of the Hawkes Bay Council to build some groynes to save rapidly eroding beach front (and the 40 properties that front the ocean view). The cost is estimated at $6.8 million which adds up to around $170,000 per property. But will the groynes work?

Another New Zealand artist Michael Smither would say no. Back in the 1980s he persuaded the New Plymouth City Council to forego groynes as a way to stop the sea's encroachment and instead use natural materials (driftwood mainly) to form a structure on which new sand dunes would build themselves. 

Smither and a bunch of people on a special government employment plan did a lot of work on Taranaki beaches and demonstrated that there is no final victory in the battle with the sea even if you use tonnes of concrete. His argument was that groynes just shift the problem further down or up the coast, solving one community’s problem at the cost of another's. The more things change.

Image: One in the groyne