Seabed Mining Locations
Pakiri / Mangawhai.
The Hauraki Gulf is currently the site of the biggest seabed mining operations in NZ waters. Pakiri and Mangawhai have been compromised by nearly 80 years of nearshore suction dredging, in waters from 5-20 metres deep. This has had multiple visible impacts including the loss of dunes and surrounding vegetation. The quality of the surf has been adversely affected and the fishery disturbed.
Currently two permits are active allowing extraction of 76,000 cubic metres of sand per year (near-shore Pakiri). In 2006, sand mining at Pakiri Beach was extended for a further 14 years by the Environment Court. This case highlights the frailties of relying on supposed scientific evidence for solutions to problems, as despite all the anecdotal evidence being negative; despite all the objections from a vast majority of residents, allied with a body as significant as the ARC; and despite the huge investment made by them in the form of a nearby regional park; and despite the comparatively small return in revenue from the mining company, the law can still allow an activity like this to take place. What was the worst aspect of this was that it appeared to be up to the residents to prove that mining was responsible for erosion to their coast, rather than the appellant.
“In a reserved decision, the court dismissed objections to continued mining from the Auckland Regional Council and Friends of Pakiri, made on the grounds of serious environmental effects. McCallum Bros and Sea Tow appealed to the court after the council turned down their application to take 76,000cu m of sand a year for 20 years near the shore at Pakiri. The companies sought to renew consents to take the sand from where the water was 5m to 10m deep in the Mangawhai-Pakiri bay area. In court, the firms disputed the claim of the council and experts that the bays formed a closed system and no new sand was coming in. The ARC said continued extraction would eventually lead to beach and dune erosion and would spoil the significant natural character of the coastline. But the companies said that despite huge volumes of sand having been extracted from the Pakiri inshore area over the past 85 years, no significant erosion or change to the coastline could be blamed on the extraction. The firms sought 20-year terms because of the quality and value of the Pakiri sand, which is needed for Auckland construction projects. It has also been used to replenish the beaches at Mission Bay, Kohimarama and St Heliers.
Judge David Sheppard said no link between sand extraction and environmental damage had been shown. He authorised coastal permits for the mining for 14 years. ARC environment chairman Dianne Glenn said last night she was disappointed by the decision. In December, the council paid $20 million to create a regional park at Pakiri and the dunes there have two threatened bird species – the NZ fairy tern and the NZ dotterel. The Government takes $1.70 in royalties for each cubic metre of sand mined here and at Pakiri, and the sand is sold for about $50 a cubic metre. The ARC hearing drew 678 submissions about the proposal – 658 were against and 20 for.”
One permit for 2,000,000 cubic metres is currently operational in the seabed area north east of Little Barrier island, with no annual limit, but additional impact assessment requirements where quantities exceed 1,200,000 cubic metres in a 24 month period, (off-shore east coast near Little Barrier Island). Current extraction rates are approximately 151,000 cubic metres per year for the entire east coast sector
Two permits are currently active within the Kaipara harbour, totalling 400,000 cubic metres per year, for five years, then increasing quantities after meeting further conditions, (Kaipara Harbour entrance, flood tidal delta). Current extraction rates are 219,000 cubic metres per year. We have heard 250,000 cubic metres described as a building the size of a rugby field and twenty storeys high. Sand from the Kaipara Harbour entrance currently contributes over 50% of the concrete sand requirements for Auckland.