A contractor who dumped truckloads of vegetation, soil and other matter on Foxton Beach has landed in hot water after witnesses shared videos and photos online.
A Higgins truck was seen on the beach on Friday, tipping its load at the water line several times.
While some of the material has washed away into the sea, large clumps of vegetable matter remain on the beach days later, over a stretch of several hundred metres near the surf lifesaving club building.
A man who witnessed the dumping said he was stunned to see the branded truck "thunder" past him while he was walking on the beach on Friday, and then stop at the low tide line to dump a load directly onto the sand.
"This ruddy great Higgins truck came bouncing past us, it pulled straight in front of us and promptly dumped its load on the beach," he said.
The witness, who wished to remain anonymous, said he stopped the truck driver the second time the truck came back, to ask him what he was doing, and the driver claimed he had council permission to dump there.
The witness said the dumped material contained plant matter, soil and earth and also some bottles and bits of metal.
In a video of the dumping a man can be heard saying "that's just wrong" as the truck unloads the waste on the beach.
Horowhenua District Council confirmed Higgins had been working for them at the time, but said it had not given any permission to dump on the beach.
Horizons Regional Council also said it did not issue any permits or consents to the company and Higgins said on Monday the material was carried to the beach as the result of a "misunderstanding".
A media statement from Higgins was not provided independently, but was instead sent through Horowhenua District Council's communications department.
A Higgins spokesperson said in the statement the company had carried out an internal investigation and the incident was a misunderstanding.
"Higgins has apologised to the Horowhenua District Council and will be doing a beach clean-up for 200 metres each side of the surf club as a contribution to the environment as well as removing the material deposited erroneously.
"We are very sorry this has taken place, and have put in place better briefing procedures to ensure this doesn't happen again," the spokesperson said.
Horowhenua District Council Interim Group Manager Infrastructure Services, Rob Green, confirmed Higgins was working under the council's maintenance contract at the time and had been carrying out kerb clearance work.
He said the council did not permit material such as this to be dumped on the beach and did not, in this instance, give permission for it to be disposed of in this manner.
"The contractor involved, Higgins, has been contacted and asked to remove any of the material that is remaining and has been requested to provide an explanation as to why the material was dumped on the beach," he said.
"The contractor...is required to dispose of any such material at an approved dump site. The beach is not considered an approved site."
After the council published the release on its Facebook page on Monday, many commenters slammed the organisation for appearing to let Higgins off lightly, with some calling for a fine to be imposed.
The council responded with a statement saying it was not the major party involved and it was Horizons who would be responsible for any further action on the incident.
It said all involved organisations were doing the best they could to resolve the incident and ensure it did not happen again.
Horizons Regional Council consents monitoring team leader Pita Kinaston said it was was a discretionary activity that requires consent, which Higgins does not have.
"Neither Horizons or HDC gave authorisation to undertake this activity," he said.
"This activity is an offence under Section 12 and 15 of the Resource Management Act.
"Horizons is in the process of getting an explanation of the activity from Higgins and will be issuing them with an abatement notice to cease the activity or any further discharges of material on to the beach. Further action will be determined following the explanation from Higgins."
The man who witnessed the dumping said he had made the issue public to try and get some positive action and environmental responsibility.
He said he understood the workers for companies like Higgins were often following directives from higher up the chain of command, and that was where he wanted to see those changes made.
It is the second time in the past year that a contractor carrying out work for the Horowhenua District Council has wrongly dumped material and cited a mistake as the reason.
In November, Downer admitted it had erroneously dumped material at an Ohau River site above Levin's water supply intake.
The council said at the time it had given the company permission to dump waste in a drain site, but it had apparently not been clear to the driver it was meant to be clean waste only.
The dumped material had contained sewage contamination and was later removed or buried.