Form and function of the Waihao-Wainono barrier, South Canterbury.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
The mixed sand and gravel barrier beaches located on the South Island's East Coast are formed predominantly of Greywacke, eroded from the mountains, and transported via the major river systems. These barriers act as the interface between the South Pacific Ocean and the surrounding hinterland. In times of high energy coastal events, breaching is common. This thesis examines the form and function of the Waihao-Wainono barrier, a section of the coastline situated north of the Waitaki River. Breaches along this part of the barrier are frequent and several have rendered the surrounding farmland unusable for several years due to the effects of saltwater inundation. There is some concern among the local community as to exactly why the barrier breaches at certain locations and not others, making land planning and management a difficult task for farmers. Several of the local landowners believe that since the construction of the Waitaki Dam in 1935, a significant decrease in sediment size along the barrier has occurred. It is also thought that the barrier form has experienced substantial change. Through the use of physical techniques used in the field of coastal science, 17 sites along the Waihao-Wainono barrier were studied. Excavations were carried out, surface and substrate profiles recorded and sediment samples collected from the surface. sub-surface and substrate of the barrier. Analysis of the barrier form and barrier volume concluded that the past breach sites consisted of steeper lower foreshore slopes than the non-breach sites, and at two sites, the substrate was not reached. Breach areas display the greatest barrier volume of all the study sites, which is contrary to belief. In relation to the surface sediments, the majority of barrier profiles displayed the distinct mean grain size cross shore zonation, characteristic of mixed sand and gravel beaches. The best and most consistent surface sorting was also identified as being a characteristic of the breach sites. The sediment size is not shown to have drastically reduced over the thirty year sampling period as was perceived by the local community. Within the sub-surface of the barrier, the sediments displayed chaotic sizes and generally poorly sorted material. Several of the breach sites contained a distinct change in sediment size between the coarser surface layer and the finer layer located immediately below. This layering of coarse and fine sized sediments leads to differences in permeability within the barrier, which is thought to be a major factor in why these sites have breached. Resulting from these findings, a group of characteristics of breach sites was formed and several predictions made as to where the barrier may breach in the near future.