An Auckland company wants to mine two million cubic metres of sand just off the coast of Pakiri and Te Arai beaches.
Kaipara Ltd is seeking a 20-year resource consent from Auckland Council to replace its current sand-mining consent, which covers a larger part of the outer Hauraki Gulf and expires in 2023.
The application follows news that another company, McCallum Bros, is also seeking to renew its sand-mining consent in an area closer to the shore, sparking concern from local environmental groups who say the practice is having a detrimental impact on the coast.
Kaipara Ltd's current consent allowed it to mine two million cubic metres of sand over 20 years since 2003, but from within the outer Hauraki Gulf, in the vicinity of Pakiri and Little Barrier Island, covering 646 square kilometres.
The new application would confine the sand mining to a much smaller area, covering 44sq km, between 1.2km and 2km from the beach and at depths of between 25 and 40 metres.
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Extraction rates would be limited to 150,000 cubic metres a year.
The sand in the area would be extracted from the sea floor on to a barge, before being offloaded in Auckland predominantly to be used as a key ingredient in the construction sector, primarily for making concrete.
As part of its application, environmental consultants said the extraction area and depth meant it would "not significantly affect and alter nearshore and beach processes".
They also said studies based on the company's extraction of 1.5 million cubic metres of sand since 2003 show impacts on the coast were "not significant".
Globally, sand is one of the world's most sought-after resources, as the main ingredient in concrete buildings, roads, computer screens and even microchips.
Sand has been mined from the area for nearly 100 years, and used in Auckland construction projects and also to replenish the beaches at Mission Bay, Kohimarama and St Heliers.
McCallum Bros also holds a consent to mine sand in the area, a 14-year consent to mine 76,000 cubic metres granted in 2006, but closer to the shore and at depths of five to 10 metres. That consent is due to expire this month.
The McCallum Bros' application had initially been declined by then-Auckland Regional Council amid concerns about sand being taken out of what some called a "closed system", but this was overturned in the Environment Court, which argued natural sand replenishment would compensate for sand taken.
The High Court also upheld the decision in 2009 after another appeal.
In June last year McCallum Bros began investigating and consulting with the community before seeking to renew its consent.
Community group Save Te Arai spokesman Aaron McConchie said they were opposed to both Kaipara Ltd's current application, and the plans from presented from McCullum Bros.
He said the Pakiri coast had a "closed loop system", and studies showed the sand did not replenish once taken.
"This is all having an effect on not only the seafloor, but the sand dunes on the coast, which provide habitat for many species including the critically endangered fairy tern."
Surfers had also reported the nationally significant breaks at Mangawhai and Te Arai had been impacted.
"We see dredges out there on an almost daily basis, coming to this beautiful part of the county to take more and more. It is very concerning."
Sand mining in the area is also opposed by Friends of Pakiri and the Surfbreak Protection Society.
Kaipara Limited and McCullum Bros have been approached for comment.
• Submissions can be made on Auckland Council's website, and close June 4.