By Toby Allen
The pressure is on to turn the tide on sand mining off the Mangawhai to Pakiri coast, with three Auckland Council resource consent hearings to begin on March 1.
If approved, the consents would see McCallum Bros Ltd and Kaipara Ltd mining there for upwards of 20 years.
But the applications are being opposed by the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society, with Ken Rayward, from the group, saying "giving any organisation the keys to the coastline for a quarter of a century" would be a tough pill to swallow, with evidence that sand mining can cause extensive coastal damage.
The group will make a submission in opposition to the plan during the hearing, which is expected to run for two weeks.
The two mining companies would also be making submissions to three commissioners and a chairperson, along with other local groups that are digging in over the issue.
Rayward said Kaipara Ltd, with two years still to run on its current consent, is seeking early renewal for its offshore licence, starting at depths of 25m and continuing into deeper waters.
The other company, McCallum Bros, would be seeking two consents for mining closer to shore, at depths of around 5m, he said.
The Mangawhai to Pakiri coast is an enclosed sand system, meaning no rivers feed into it to provide a renewable supply of sand.
The offshore extraction creates underwater valleys that are naturally refilled with beach sand and cliff erosion, he said.
In particular, the proposed drilling depth of 5m is very close to the shore.
Rayward said the planned volume of sand to be mined is three times the volume of the Mangawhai sand spit and dunes, meaning this sand would be at risk of erosion to fill the offshore holes.
The area has been mined for nearly 100 years but advances in extraction technology mean sand disappears much faster today than it did in the past.
It could mean the loss of "a safe harbour and the whole magic of Mangawhai," said Rayward.
Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society, which also works with dune plantings and the overall health of the local estuary, is concerned about the loss of bird habitats, including the endangered fairy tern.
Alongside the Friends of Pakiri Beach group a community rally, 'Stand Against Sand Mining', was held on February 14 at Mangawhai.
Out in force were around 350 passionate coastline battlers, who formed a giant "SOS – Save our Sand."
Kaipara Mayor, Dr Jason Smith, also spoke at the event.
Rayward was pleased with the turnout, the level of support and the passion of the supporters.
"Nobody wants to look their grandkids in the eye in 10 years and wish they had the same beaches to enjoy and grow up with, but they're gone."