A popular swimming hole on the Ōhau River is under threat, said Gladstone Road resident Rosemary Cleator.
She said contractors have been extracting truckloads of gravel from the river banks near the popular spot.
The work is effectively widening the area where the river can run in times of high rainfall. Ms Cleator said a resource consent for the work, with strict conditions, expired in July and she cannot get confirmation from Horizons Regional Council whether a new consent was issued recently. She said work started last Monday.
'The consent conditions relating to how extraction is occurring were being complied with at the time of the inspection.'
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Ms Cleator not only fears for the future of the swimming hole, she also believes the extraction is too close to the river flow and that more than the permitted amount has been extracted.
"They did not dig in that area last year, and certainly did not strip it like they have this year.
When the area is stripped it causes the river to change course during a flood, and also to take the finer gravel — which is unstable since the bigger gravel has gone — and move it into the nearest hole — the swimming hole," she said.
"That is how the better swimming holes that there used to be are no longer in existence."
She said this is what happened to the river near the Poads Road bridge in the past.
"Photos taken before they started working there showed a gravel beach area — now it is just all river spread widely."
Horizons Regional Council regulatory manager Greg Bevin said Higgins is operating under the existing use provisions of the Resource Management Act (RMA). The abstraction is lawful, he said.
"This is because they lodged a consent application to us within the required timeframe required under the RMA," said Mr Bevin. "Horizons inspected the operation last Friday, based on the community member's concerns.
"The consent conditions relating to how extraction is occurring were being complied with at the time of the inspection."
The gravel extraction is happening upstream from the Levin water treatment plant, which is largely unaffected by the work.
"The only noticeable impact the gravel extraction has on the Levin Water Treatment Plant is increased turbidity in the source water," Levaai Toremana, Horowhenua District Council's Water Services Engineer, said.
"However, the plant has systems to deal with turbidity and there is no impact on the water supply to residents."
Higgins was approached for comment but did not respond.