Sand supplier McCallum Brothers has started an investigation and consultation programme prior to seeking to renew its consent to mine sand offshore, between Pakiri and Mangawhai.
Its current consent to extract sand from the Pakiri-Mangawhai embayment will expire in May next year.
The company was granted permits from the Environment Court in 2006 to extract up to 76,000 cubic metres of sand every year for 14 years.
The consent process ended up in court after the initial application was denied by Auckland Regional Council (ARC), due in part to strong opposition from local groups such as Friends of Pakiri.
The debate in the Environment Court rested on whether the Pakiri embayment was being replenished with sand and if the mining was contributing to erosion of the foreshore. Ultimately, the court ruled in favour of McCallum Bros.
Friends of Pakiri spokesman Nick Williams said it was a blow considering it had eight expert opinions against a single expert opinion in favour of the McCallum Bros.
“This time we are going to be more savvy about the way we oppose the renewal. We are going to be an incorporated society with a website and donation portal, and put the information out on social media.
“My parents lived in Pakiri and my family has had a place here for 35 years, and we know the mining is damaging to the beach. There are thousands of non-erosionary sand sources, either on shore or out in the Kaipara, so it’s not needed here.”
The consent granted by the Environment Court only allows McCallum to extract sand at depths of between five metres and 10 metres, located between the Auckland-Northland regional boundary and the Poutawa stream.
“The ARC initially opposed the consent, and the present-day Council is meant to monitor that McCallum is not breaching its conditions, but I’m not sure they are doing much about it,” Mr Williams says.
“We are not a ‘nimby’ group worried about property prices or views. We feel obligated given we have got so much out of the place, which is a pristine beach environment, that we should be doing something to protect it. It is motivated out of our love of the beach.”
McCallum Bros chief operating officer Shayne Elstob says the company is seeking advice on environmental effects from expert consultants to support its application.
“Until we have the data it is hard to have a conversation that is not just emotive. It would be fair to say we wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up in the Environment Court again.”
Mr Elstob says that pine trees, which formerly lined the top of the dunes on the coastline, have been felled within 500 metres of the shore to make way for golf courses and subdivisions, and this may have had an impact on the sand system.
“With all of our monitoring since 1995 we haven’t seen major erosion events other than from storms, which do cause erosion, but the beach recovers,” he says.
“We are just about to start our consultation process with interested parties. We are doing extensive work and we feel that if we can do that to the best of our ability, perhaps we will remove some of the opposition.”
The public will have a chance to give feedback once the renewal for consent is lodged in November.