Diggers will start rolling again at Matapōuri beach after Whangārei District Council received a 20-year consent to dredge sand from the nearby estuary to replenish the eroding coastline.
Council had conducted similar works before, reforming sand dunes back in 2005 and, two years later, extracting sand from the estuary and placing it along the Matapōuri beach and spit.
Independent commissioner Sharon McGarry renewed the previous resource consent last week and while her decision is still subject to appeal until early November, council expect works to begin sometime after April 2020.
Council proposed to excavate up to 15,000 cubic metres of sand from the Matapōuri estuary to replenish the eroding upper beach and sand dunes. A new public access way over the sand dunes is also planned.
McGarry heard the WDC application on behalf of consent holder Northland Regional Council in mid-August this year and formally released her decision last Thursday.
The application received 30 submissions – 17 opposed the plans, eight were supportive and five neutral.
Opponents, including a group of local residents, are concerned about the costs and that the dredging would only by a short-term fix for a long-term problem.
"Our home is one of those most vulnerable from sea inundation," David Roy, Matapōuri Rd resident of 22 years, said in a written statement to the commissioner.
"The last thing we need is sand removed from right outside our property."
"Twelve years ago we closely observed a similar excavation and replenishment programme at Matapōuri."
Roy said he firmly believed that the result of the replenishment was only beneficial for a short period of time.
"After a couple of major storms the sand, especially at the spit end of the beach, was moved elsewhere.
"The Matapōuri sand is constantly on the move, sometimes favourably, sometimes not," he stated.
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Roy and other residents raised concerns about various adverse environmental effects, especially for birds nesting along the beach.
They also pointed out that the natural systems at work – wind and water – were dynamic, and a survey was required to confirm how much sand was present before any extraction.
On the other hand, supporters believed the work was necessary to maintain and protect the beach, dune and spit.
Sandra Hawken spoke on behalf of the Te Rangi Whakaahu Hapu Trust saying to do nothing would be worse in the long run than doing the proposed works.
"We understand that there is much to consider. [The trust] have been busy recently […] to bring about awareness in our rohe for the need to look after what we have left so that generations ahead of us will have the same beautiful place to call their own," Hawken said in her statement.
In a detailed decision running to more than 30 pages, commissioner McGarry said that, she was satisfied the proposed activities "can be carried out without resulting in any significant adverse environmental effects on ecological values, cultural values and relationships, and coastal processes".
"I accept the proposed works will have positive effects on the amenity of values of Matapōuri beach and will enhance the resilience of the upper beach and sand dune system to coastal erosion."
McGarry said she believed public access to and along the foreshore would be improved and recreational values of the beach enhanced.
"I consider the proposed works will increase the protection and resilience of natural defences against coastal hazards and reduce the risk posed to public and private land and structures from coastal hazards."
Even though council sought after a 30-year resource consent, McGarry reduced the term to 20 years, taking uncertainty around climate change and rising sea levels under consideration.
She also outlined the need for further community input in the future long-term solutions.
A 20-year consent term allows for up to four extractions, conducted every five years, and is aimed to provide sufficient certainty and cost efficiency for the council.
At the same time, the 20-year term balanced "the need to review the results of monitoring and ensure significant adverse environmental effects continue to be avoided over the term of the consent," McGarry said.