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Auckland Conservation Board Opposes Application For Sand Extraction Along Pākiri Beach Coastline

The Tāmaki Makaurau – Auckland Conservation Board has today spoken in opposition of the Resource Consent Application being made to extract sand from coastal areas off Pākiri Beach.

The applicant is seeking to renew its consent with Auckland Council, to dredge up to a total of 2,000,000m³ of sand from an area of 44 km² within the coastal marine area, over a 20-year period. The applicant’s current consent is due to expire in 2023.

Tāmaki Makaurau – Auckland Conservation Board’s outgoing Chair, Lyn Mayes, states it opposes the application on several levels, namely the threat further extraction will have on shorebirds and marine mammals in the area, uncertainty relating to the sedimentary process and consequences of climate change; and, the direct and indirect effects on biological processes, such as widespread disturbance to subtidal benthic habitats. The Board also states that it does not believe the applicant has adequately addressed the potential for alternative sources of sand.

“It is a priority of the Board to advocate for the protection of Auckland’s marine and freshwater habitats and threatened species. Almost 4,000 of our indigenous species are currently threated with, or are at risk of, extinction. This includes 90% of seabirds and 74% of terrestrial birds,” says Mayes.

“Regarding this application, the Board has significant concerns about the potential conservation impacts on the coastal environment of Pākiri Beach, given its ecological significance.

“The shoreline in the extraction area is an important nesting area for native shorebirds, including variable oystercatcher, but of greater significance is the New Zealand fairy tern (tara iti) which is our rarest breeding bird. In addition, the coastal waters in the vicinity of this sand extraction activity have some of the highest diversity of marine mammals in the world, including a small resident population of Bryde’s whales which has a ‘nationally critical’ conservation status in New Zealand,” added Board member, and marine biologist, Dr Andrew Jeffs.

The Board notes in its submission that the site is also adjacent to a popular regional park and iconic marine reserve; and, also adjacent to areas of Outstanding Natural Landscapes and Significant Ecological Areas which are included in Auckland’s Unitary Plan.

The Board has concerns that the dredge vessel being used will cause continual and widespread disturbance to subtidal benthic habitats, which appear to include the presence of protected stony corals. The Board estimates approximately an area of seabed of 24,000 m² will be impacted for every load of sand harvested from Pākiri. With up to 144 loads a year anticipated, this amounts to a total of 3,456,000m², or almost 3.5 km2 of seabed disturbed.

“It is likely that the sediment disturbance will also kill marine organisms living deeper in the sediment, by effectively destroying the structure of their habitat and exposing them to predators,” says Dr Jeffs.

Mrs Mayes concluded that: “As a Board we also have grave concerns that the applicant does not adequately address the potential for other sources of sand – for example, manufactured alternatives to sand mining are readily available, and manufactured sand is used widely in other countries for concrete production and plays a key part in protecting coastal ecosystems. Recycled crushed glass is already being used in applications in New Zealand as an alternative to dredging sand.

“Internationally there is widespread concern about the environmental impacts of sand extraction from the coastal environment with beach mining being stopped, and as a Board we feel that these concerns are where there is a high degree of uncertainty of the environment effects, versus some considerable environmental and conservation values.”

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