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Protestors take a stand in the sand


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A unified wave of surfers, locals, dignitaries and visiting supporters planted their feet firmly in the sand on Valentine’s Day in a declaration of love and commitment to the local environment.

Nearly 150 people including Kaipara mayor, Dr Jason Smith, councillors and council staff, gathered at Mangawhai Heads surf beach on February 14 for the ‘Stand Against Sand Mining’ protest, forming a human S.O.S – ‘Save Our Sand’ – and waving placards to protest against ongoing sandmining along the Te Arai and Pakiri coastlines.

Organised by Friends of Pakiri, a support group of Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society (MHRS) and long-time protesters of nearshore sandmining, the stand-in-the-sand hoped to draw attention to the potential destruction of shore beds, alleged loss of irreplaceable sand, and three looming sandmining consent hearings from Auckland companies Kaipara Limited (KL) and McCallum Brothers.

Kaipara Limited’s consent, which attracted 655 submissions with only four in favour, is due to be heard in front of four commissioners on March 1, while McCallum Brothers are yet to announce their applications and status. The company also applied to have their renewed nearshore application accepted as non-notifiable with their new offshore application notifiable. The Stand’s coordinator, MHRS member Ken Rayward, says people still have the opportunity to oppose McCallums ‘as strongly as possible’.

“The sand we have here now is all we’ve got, when the barge takes the sand it not only damages the seafloor but the trenches it forms get back-filled by our coastline… the amount the companies want to take is three times the size of the sand dune,” he says. “In the next 25 years we could see this coastline diminish and disappear… we have to fight it as hard as we can.”

thumbnail 4 MF-SOS4-753Following a passionate karakia by long-time holiday local, kaitiaki (guardian) Renata Blair, mayor Smith acknowledged Rayward and John Phillis for organising the event and joined them in thanking everyone for attending.

“We’re all aware of what the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society has done here for decades with the Distal Spit, as well as the work of the Fairy Tern Trust,” said Smith. “As council, we are mindful we have to make decisions for the people of today as well as for the people of the future, and the mining of sand will eventually take away the sand we are standing on right now… so we are happy to be here and say stop sandmining in our neighbours’ patch. On behalf of all Kaipara Council, we are happy to stand up and make a noise about things that matter to our communities!”

When asked by one resident if the councils support will translate into financial help if the protest leads to the Environmental Court, Smith replied that although the half a

million-dollar cost was ‘impossible from a rate payer basis’, as mayor he can help others ‘lean in’.

“As Ernest Rutherford said, ‘we don’t have the money so we’ve got to think’,” he said. “We’re at an important journey with the consent process ahead, please be assured that your council is right here with you.”

Rayward added that the support group is ‘very aware of the cost of taking this all the way’ and says they have already established funding mechanisms, ‘we’re right onto that’.

As a descendant of Ngati Whatua, Auckland businessman Renata Blair says from a Maori world view perspective, ‘mining sand, our mother, is against our belief’.

“Sandmining completely upsets the life-force of the ocean, the ‘tangaroa’ the ‘atua’ (spirit/god) of the ocean, and ‘Ikatere’, the atua of fish life,” he says. “I own a house here, I’m a local surfer and been coming here for 30 years. As part of our tribal district, it is important we strongly oppose the mining to ensure our environment is protected. All the science the companies have done doesn’t count for the life-force of the ocean… its good we’ve got action.”

n For more information and research into the effects of sandmining, visit MHRS on facebook, friendsofpakiribeach.org.nz and Kiwis Against Seabed Mining, kasm.org.nz/seabed-mining. Or to sign the Friends of Pakiri Beach petition, and guidelines to make a submission, visit our.actionstation.org.nz/petitions/save-pakiri-beach-from-sand-mining.

“The sand we have here now is all we’ve got… the amount the companies want to take is three times the size of the sand dune.”


Big Dig: 30 years on
Just over 30 years ago in the early hours of February 11, 1991, a band of locals armed with digging equipment, kiwi-initiative and a touch of civil rebellion, gathered at Mangawhai’s lagoon and began to breathe life back into their dying harbour.

Colloquially known as the legendary ‘Big Dig’, the unique event is the real-life drama of how a bunch of can-do residents, frustrated by the inertia of councils and the Department of Conservation, as well as risking arrest, took their harbour’s health into their own hands.

Since the late 1970s major storms, including Cyclone Bola in 1987, had diminished the lagoon’s natural ebb-and-flow, creating rogue, shallow breaches along the Mangawhai Spit and sediment build-up in the northern inlet which caused the waters to stagnate.

Over four days the determined group, supported by a large number of volunteers, laboured to reopen the harbour’s northern end by Picnic Bay and close off a southern breach, allowing the sea to once again stream through and cleanse the lagoon.

However, as the northern entrance kept closing, volunteers committed countless hours over the next five years to monitor and dredge the harbour, finally achieving lasting success after a man-made bund wall was erected at the southern breach of the harbour, allowing for the current to flow once more through only the northern channel.

As a result of the Big Dig, many of the original members formed the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society (MHRS), the environmental organisation which still remains today as the guardians of Mangawhai’s harbour.

Visit Mangawhai Museum to view the whole story.



S.O.S means ‘Save our Sand’. Demonstrators take to the beach to raise awareness of the plight of local sand. PHOTO/ELEVATED MEDIA NZ


Kaipara mayor, Dr Jason Smith passionately expressed councils support: ‘We are happy to stand up and make a noise about things that matter to our communities!” PHOTO/GRANT CROWE

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