Morphology, Dynamics and Hazard Management of the New River Lagoon, Westland, New Zealand
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Coastal lagoon systems are complex and dynamic environments that respond rapidly to the changes of fluvial, marine, climatic and anthropogenic influences. The purpose of this research was to investigate the morphology and dynamics of the New River Lagoon before and after the implementation of engineering outlet management using a methodological framework to analyse active process environments. This information was then used to determine the functional effectiveness of engineering management at reducing the risk of flooding and erosion to the local community and imposing minimal impacts on the environmental integrity of the lagoon system.
This investigation used a multidisciplinary approach to investigate the morphology and dynamics of the New River Lagoon in relation to active process environments. Outlet dynamics, lagoon channel structure and adjacent shoreline stability were assessed over a decadal timescale prior to engineering management by analysing temporal aerial photographs. Following engineering management, the hydrology of the lagoon was investigated, along with the relationship between morphological changes to the artificial lagoon outlet and changes in lagoon hydrology, local wave climate and local precipitation levels. Water depth, conductivity and temperature records were used to explain lagoon hydrology and Global Navigation Satellite Surveying (GNSS) and weekly oblique photographs were used to explain and document changes in outlet morphology. Wave and rainfall data were used to explain the balances between marine and fluvial environments and their affects on outlet dynamics.
Significant changes in lagoon morphology and dynamics were observed at the New River Lagoon between pre- and post-management periods, with the former considered more stable in terms of outlet migration patterns and hydrodynamics. The lagoon outlet prior to engineering management showed morphological characteristics similar to hapua-type systems, migrating along the coastline and forming shore-parallel outlet channels in response to the dominance of a strong longshore drift of sediment. Current outlet dynamics are restricted by artificial outlet management and typically cycle intermittently between open/closed phases in response to variable levels of rainfall and marine sediment supply; characteristics similar to Intermittently Open/Closed Lagoons (ICOLs) found in areas of Australia and South Africa. Hydrologically, the lagoon is considered to be located on a continuum between hapua and estuaries during pre- and post-management periods due to intermittent tidal influences. However, artificial outlet management has significantly increased the frequency and duration of tidal exchange, which now classifies the New River lagoon closer to an estuarine environment.
The artificial lagoon outlet and associated breakwater were effective at flushing high flows of water during the study period. However, the outlet was prone to blockage and migration; two morphological states capable of causing flooding. Currently, the greatest risks to flooding at the lagoon are flash floods, following dry periods where marine sediment has established a solid barrier across the outlet, during which water levels are already elevated.
Increases in tidal influences, lower lagoon water levels and an increase in lagoon salinity are a direct result of engineering management intervention. An increase in freshwater flushing through the lagoon outlet and deepened of the outlet channel to below sea level, allows for pronounced tidal influences during outlet opening. Restriction of the lagoon outlet from forming a natural migration outlet channel in the direction of littoral drift has meant the outlet is most often oriented perpendicular to the sea, as appose to at an angle away from the direction of incoming waves and currents, further increasing tidal influences.
In order to make sustainable management decisions, future management of the lagoon system must weight-up the effects of a high energy coastline to the integrity of the engineering structure, the impact of the structure on the lagoons environmental integrity and the outlets ability to become unstable and cause a flood risk.
The findings of this research have improved the understanding of the New River Lagoon system, and its response to engineering management intervention, while adding to the understanding of river-mouth lagoon systems both nationally and internationally.