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Dredging and sand mining: What’s the difference?



thumbnail 09 MF-SpiritII-382KEN RAYWARD

This year, 2021, marks the 30th anniversary of the now famous Big Dig, a time in our history when the people of Mangawhai took matters into their own hands to save the Mangawhai harbour from total closure. The channel to the open ocean was blocked, the lack of water flow created a foul-smelling unhealthy environment which was strangling marine and estuary bird life. It is hard to imagine that 30 years ago the pristine waters that we now have in our Picnic Bay area, were a toxic, polluted environmental wasteland.

The actions of the people of Mangawhai in counteracting bureaucratic inactivity is now part of Mangawhai folklore, and our community of today owes much to them for what we have today.

Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society (MHRS) was formed following the Big Dig, and charged with the responsibility of maintaining and enhancing the water quality of our harbour estuary system, this included creating marine and birdlife habitats that are so treasured today.

To make this happen, the MHRS engages in regular dredging of wind-blown sands that create water flow blockages, and relocating our very precious sand back onto the spit and surrounding beaches, which provide our safe harbour environments.

The MHRS recognises how valuable our sands are as we do not have a river system that supports sand supply, the sand we have cannot be replaced, having originally come from the Firth of Thames when the Waikato River ran through it.

Carefully moving this precious commodity around the harbour is taken very seriously by the MHRS team that manage the operations of the ‘Spirit of Mangawhai II’, for without these actions, our estuary and surrounding natural environments would quickly be lost to us.

It is this appreciation of the value of our sands that are an essential part of our coastal eco-system which has led to the MHRS, along with other concerned community groups, to rally community support against the

three sand mining consents currently being requested by Auckland companies, McCallum Brothers and Kaipara Ltd.

It is important to understand that the dredging work undertaken by the ‘Spirit of Mangawhai II’ in the estuary is totally separate to the sand mining dredges seen daily operating along our ocean coastline, where the sands they extract are taken to Auckland for use in commercial applications from concrete to construction.

Once taken, our coastal sand cannot be replaced, and allowing these consents to proceed will cause long-term irreversible damage to our ocean beaches including our sand spit which is so essential to our safe harbour environment.

The ‘Spirit of Mangawhai II’ may not be the prettiest craft on our harbour Ken Rayward says, but for our community, she is our most valuable asset. PHOTO/FILE

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