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Bold artwork highlights threat to unique Southern coast

Bold artwork highlights threat to unique Southern coast

A beautiful and unique part of New Zealand’s coastline has gained some new ‘guardians’ care of renowned painter Nigel Brown.

Brown says Southland District Council’s ‘half-baked fix’ to stop a road being eroded risks devastating the entire adjacent coastline, as it ignores the reality of fierce local conditions.

He’s installed the 2m high painting ‘Sustainable Triptych’ to protest and draw attention to the issue.

Click for big version.

Tourists and locals who visit the picturesque bay of Cosy Nook on Foveaux Strait are familiar with the furious sea and wild weather in the area. Years of coastal erosion have undermined Mullet Road, the only access into the bay.

The Council has just gained consent to build a 75m long seawall to protect part of Mullet Road directly adjacent to Brown and partner Sue McLaughlin’s Cosy Nook property. But the couple, who opposed the consent application, say the wall will worsen erosion in other parts of the coast – endangering the adjacent Cosy Nook Beach.

The Council admits this is a risk, and has proposed ‘armour rock’ barriers in its plan. However its own application calls the solution ‘short term’ and it has not sought advice on longer-term protection for the area. The rock barrier will prove puny and useless in the face of the Southern Ocean, say Brown and McLaughlin.

“We’ve lived with this sea for years and we’ve seen the coastline change immensely. You can’t under-estimate its power. The Council’s relying on advice that just isn’t good enough.”

They’re calling on the Council to get expert advice on the coastal impacts and put in place a long-term solution to protect the coast.

“Erosion next to Mullet Road isn't new – the Council has had years to deal with it. Now, because they’ve neglected the problem for so long, they have to enact something urgent to stop the road being washed away,” says Brown.

“Their own application admits the seawall is only a ‘short term’ solution. They have no real idea how it will impact the rest of the coast because they haven’t sought advice from experts who understand coastal processes. It’s a gamble – a very expensive one.”

McLaughlin says in 15 years at Cosy Nook, the couple have worked to preserve the local environment and fragile coastline. As well as fencing off coastal areas to prevent grazing and planting flaxes to provide a natural buffer for the shore, they’ve also worked hard to re-vegetate part of the land with native trees.

“We love this coast passionately, as do many Southlanders for whom this is part of their heritage. We think this area is too precious to gamble with, so we’re calling on Council to get expert advice and put in place a long-term solution that will protect not just the road, but also this irreplaceable, beautiful coastline.

“This is basically a dangerous experiment. Once the coast is gone, that’s it – we can’t get it back.”

Brown’s work ‘Sustainable Triptych’ consists of three painted panels depicting local Pahia Hill, with the sea in the foreground and native birds and wildlife. Figures in the central panel are protecting local kereru and karoro with the word ‘sustainable’ across the scene – epitomising Brown’s hope for the future of the area. Two stalwart figures, a man and woman, look on.

“We’ve had loads of comments from people passing – which is great that it’s being noticed. I hope it will make people stop and think about what they really value in this special place,” says Brown.

The couple plan to appeal Environment Southland’s decision to grant consent, but will first go through mediation with the District Council.

About ‘Sustainable Triptych
Sustainable Triptych’ 2014 acrylic on ply and cut out ply. The work consists of three panels plus two flanking cut out figures. Text by Nigel Brown and Sue McLaughlin reads: “Birds and marine environment versus SDC and Environment Southland and sea wall / Destruction of Rattlestone Beach goes on / Proper resource management versus roading subsidies and short term thinking / Whales, Hector Dolphins. Seaweed, Paua, Sharks, Coastal Plants.

A woman in the centre holds the word ‘sustainable’ aloft while a man above holds a kereru. Birds abound including hawk, ruru, plovers and other birds. The sea is represented by the pattern at the bottom.

About Nigel Brown
Nigel Brown (b. 1949) has exhibited extensively throughout New Zealand and is represented in most public collections with larger holdings in Te Papa, the Hocken, and Tauranga public art gallery. Residencies include Antactica and Russia. His work is held in many private collections in New Zealand and internationally. After a 30 year career in Auckland he shifted to Cosy Nook in Southland in 2001. He was awarded the Order of NZ Merit in 2004 for services to painting and printmaking.

About Cosy Nook
Cosy Nook has an important Maori history with settlements around the coast and Pahia district itself. Now Cosy Nook consists of farmlets with cribs in a rocky cove (Mullet Bay) at the end of Mullet Road. It is on the southern scenic route and popular with sightseers and tourists.

The coast and sea is home and a sanctuary to the endangered Hector dolphins, Tohora (Southern Right whale) and hundreds of swarming titi. Other bird species roosting on the rocks are: karoro, sharks, blue penguins, oystercatchers, grey heron, terns, plovers, starlings and hawks. It also has plenty of seaweed and kaimoana such as paua, kina, blue cod and greenbone.

The rocky coast is made up of granite basalt boulders, with a large array of argillite and other types of stones. The open sea beside Cosy Nook is the most southern and dangerous surfing spot - aptly called ‘Porridge’.


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