Concerned locals and people from across the north island today converged on Mangawhai Heads Beach to create a huge, human SOS on the sand, calling for an urgent stop to sand mining in Mangawhai and Pakiri.
Together they sent a clear message to Auckland extraction company, McCallum Brothers, that their sand mining practice along the Mangawhai/Pakiri coastline is not welcome.
Auckland-based company McCallum Bros have applied to harvest sand for the next 35 years, and the daily sandmining, which continues unabated, has resulted in an uprising from locals and holiday makers.
“Our communities cannot bear the devastation that this sand mining is causing to our beaches, our oceans and the threats to our wildlife and harbours,” said Jessie Stanley, spokesperson for coalition group Save Our Sands.
“That is why thousands of people in our community are here today to show their opposition for continued sand mining in this area. We need this sand mining to stop now before it’s too late”.
The event drew concerned people from across the North Island including Northlanders and Aucklanders, as well as residents living along the 20-kilometre-long Pakiri-Mangawhai coastline.
Save Our Sands (SOS) spokesperson Ken Rayward said opposition to the mining was growing exponentially as more people found out what was happening.
“We have witnessed a huge amount of sand loss along this beach, and there is no more to give” says Raywards. “The Mangawhai Pakiri sand is not a renewable, sustainable source of sand and this sand mining needs to stop immediately.”
Mangawhai beach 2020 and two years later in 2022 showing sand loss - credit V. Plačkić
The Mangawhai harbour, estuary, and surf beach are huge risk of exposure to storms and strong weather events if the spit's protection decreases. The barrier spit is classed as outstanding in terms of landscape, natural character and natural features and these high-ranking values are a matter of national importance under the Resource Management Act.
The Mangawhai harbour is also home to 26 threatened and at-risk species of birds, including Aotearoa’s most endangered bird, the tara iti, New Zealand Fairy Tern.
“There are only 39 tara iti left in the world,” said Natalie Jessup, General Manager of the Endangered Species Foundation. “There are only nine breeding pairs in total and of these, seven nest on the Mangawhai dunes. The tara iti, is our most endangered bird, and we should be doing everything we can to ensure its survival by protecting its habitat.”
Tara iti parents and chick – photo credit Jacob Ball, DOC
Celebrity Jaquie Brown also spoke of the “soul-enriching” time she has spent on Pakiri beach.
“We are the ocean’s voice, sandmining is sucking the life from our beaches, it’s a sneaky, secret activity about a big corporation taking from the little guy,” she says. “But today is people-power in action, creating a moment in history signaling we care which generations will thank us for… Don’t let us stick our head in the sand, if we do, once we pull our heads out again, there’ll be no more sand left.”
The three councils connected with the sand mining operations and impacts - Auckland Council, Kaipara District Council and Northland Regional Council – have all expressed their opposition to the sand mining. Kaipara Mayor Dr Jason Smith spoke at the event to show his support to end the sand mining.
“The Kaipara District Council has stood unanimously in opposition to the sandmining,” said Smith. “We are absolutely aware what is at stake… if the sandbank is lowered coupled with climate change and rising sea levels, that ocean could come into Mangawhai, which is massively problematic… We have no control over Auckland’s side… however we are making a noise on the resource consent process.”
Auckland Council has so far declined the new far-shore application, however McCallum Bros have appealed this decision which will now go to the Environment Court.
The Kaipara District Council (KDC) has submitted against the company's near-shore and mid-shore resource consent application. The KDC opposition is “in full and pertains to actual or perceived adverse effects on the Mangawhai sandspit morphology, wildlife habitat of nationally critical or vulnerable bird species, as well as on the local Mangawhai community," according to their submission.
The Northland Regional Council (NRC)'s submission on the near-shore and mid-shore resource consent applications raised serious concerns about the lack of research regarding the sand mining's potential impacts.
The Rodney Local Board has also taken a stand against the sand mining consent applications. They:
“...do not support the mining and taking of sand from Pakiri on an ongoing basis due to the unmitigated adverse environmental effects upon the seabed, foreshore, coastal marine area, local ecology, and the extended recovery time of the existing disturbed and affected environment”.
Greenpeace spokesperson Elliot Pryor acknowledged how amazing it was to see so many activists in one place.
“Sand from this beach is being used for construction in Auckland and coming here today I can see the erosion,” said Pryor. “This campaign has been really successful so far for bringing people together, in getting media attention, and especially making Auckland Council and their staff accountable for the decisions they make, they’ve realised they can’t just give out consents for sandmining and not monitor the effects.”
There are many alternatives to fresh sand such as reducing waste concrete by crushing it and using it as a sand replacement. All speakers urged the community to keep telling everyone what is happening, and to question where their concrete comes from.
“Our communities and the Save our Sands Coalition supports sustainable sand sourcing options that do not adversely affect this unique environment,” said Stanley.
“We are calling on this sand mining to stop immediately for all our communities, future generations and the many vulnerable, beautiful and at-risk species that call this place home.”
Save Our Sands is a coalition of concerned community members and includes the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society, Friends of Pakiri Beach, Te Whānau o Pakiri, the Endangered Species Foundation, and Greenpeace.
Save our Sands - Jessie Stanley
021 228 8581
Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society – Ken Rayward
027 442 5408
Endangered Species Foundation – Natalie Jessup 022 121 5913 firstname.lastname@example.org