Global cosmetics giant Sephora has hit back at claims of irresponsible waste dumping during its much-hyped store launch in Auckland.

The French make-up giants opened their new store in Auckland's CBD on Saturday morning, with some punters camping out overnight to ensure they were amongst the first into the shop.

But not everyone was impressed.

New Zealand Māori Council executive director Matthew Tukaki took aim at the company and also millennials, saying, "All these young climate warriors? Get off your backsides and start practising what you preach", after seeing close to 1000 people queued up on Queen St and neighbouring streets before the store opened to exploding ticker tape cannons at 9am.

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It was that same ticker tape that Tukaki later claimed — after being warned by a security guard not to slip on the quickly-sodden scraps of paper — he saw being swept into bins and dumped down Queen St drains.

Sephora opened with a bang - cannons fired ticker tape into the crowd as almost 1000 people queued outside the Auckland store for its grand opening. Photo / Cherie Howie
Sephora opened with a bang - cannons fired ticker tape into the crowd as almost 1000 people queued outside the Auckland store for its grand opening. Photo / Cherie Howie

Tukaki, who is also chairman of the Auckland division of the New Zealand Māori Council, also said he saw Sephora staff take paper testers, used for fragrances, and put them in the bins of ticker tape being dumped into the drains.

A Sephora New Zealand spokeswoman said the company had worked with Auckland Council on the launch, and referred questions to Auckland Council.

"This is now an Auckland Council matter."

The Herald asked for more information on the details of permission given by the council, and whether the paper testers embedded with cosmetic chemicals, as claimed by Tukaki, were put down the drain. The spokeswoman said she would seek further response from the company.

She later said: "We worked closely with Auckland Council to meet all requirements, including waste management and health and safety plan, for its approved event permit to ensure the confetti was safe for the enviroment.

"The confetti used was bio-degradable, water soluable and plant based."

An Auckland Council spokeswoman said the council was still confirming what permissions were granted to the company.

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Tukaki said he had asked Sephora representatives at the site of the store opening to explain why the dumping was occurring and was told "that they had permission to dump the materials from the Auckland Council".

"This is an absolute disgrace. We have hundreds of at-risk waterways across the nation and now we have some multinational company ... dumping chemical cosmetic-laden waste down our waterways – and all, according to a spokesperson for Sephora New Zealand, with the permission of the Auckland Council.

"I have witnessed first hand the use of large plastic laundry tubs filled to the brim with wastewater and paper-laden waste with chemical cosmetics just being dumped and pushed into the drains – all as hundreds of young people line up turning a blind eye to it all – some of the same young people who turned out in droves to protest climate change and call on more environmental sustainability."

Matthew Tukaki says he saw Sephora staff sweeping and dumping paper waste into Queen St drains, which flow to the sea. Photo / Matthew Tukaki
Matthew Tukaki says he saw Sephora staff sweeping and dumping paper waste into Queen St drains, which flow to the sea. Photo / Matthew Tukaki

He said would write to Auckland Mayor Phil Goff, who this year championed the planned introduction of a $67 per household clean water tax to help fix the city's ageing stormwater and wastewater infrastructure and improve beach and river water quality.

"I will be writing to Phil Goff to explain what the council did and when it did it and I want him to confirm that they indeed granted permission, as Sephora has told me directly, to dump this crap down the drains. And if they did not, I want this company investigated and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."

The mayor wasn't the only one in his sight lines.

Tukaki, who was on his way to get a haircut when he came across the Sephora opening, had a message for the many young people he saw queued up Queen St this morning.

"Hundreds of these young people were lined up around the corner turning a blind eye as this happened all in wrapped up in the frenzy of consumerism. Act, don't talk, is my message, young people.

"And my message to all young and old – don't buy from this company."

More than 800 people queued, the most hardy overnight, before Sephora's New Zealand launch this morning. Photo / Cherie Howie
More than 800 people queued, the most hardy overnight, before Sephora's New Zealand launch this morning. Photo / Cherie Howie

Sephora has spent an estimated $5 million to fit out its three-storey Queen St store.

It has been a rapid and glitzy marketing campaign in the countdown to opening.

The international retailer has large stores in more than 12 countries. It's understood expansion plans include opening a store at Sylvia Park shopping mall in Auckland before Christmas.