The Auckland Council has released their decision to refuse the "Proposal to extract sand from the coastal marine area off-shore at Pakiri". This is a massive win in our efforts to stop sand mining in this sacred and special rohe (area).
We would like to acknowledge all the people and local groups who have put in many, many volunteer hours to draw attention to this issue and fight these applications in court.
We especially tautoko the generational decades of immense work and effort that the Ahi Ka of the Pakiri coastline, kuia, kaumatua, kaitiaki, whanau of Pakiri, whanau whanui of Ngāti Manuhiri hapū and Ngātiwai iwi, have put in to protecting all the taonga in this ecosystem.
Tara iti, NZ Fairy Tern parents and chicks on the Mangawhai sand spit. Photo: Jacob Ball, DOC
All Ahi Kaa submitters were united in their longstanding objections to the continued mining and dredging of the sea floor in their rohe. They opposed the application on grounds of direct and cumulative effects on the ongoing and enduring cultural relationship to the Pakiri coastline including rangatiratanga (chieftainship) and kaitiakitanga (guardianship), as well the cultural values relating to the mauri (spirit) of, and effects on, the cultural landscape, taonga (treasured) species and biodiversity.
During the submissions Ahi Kaa and Ngāti Manuhiri explained the intricate web of values that make up the cultural landscape and how they have a relationship focus which:
“reflects the whakapapa or kinship between mana whenua, and the lands, waters, places and taonga directly and indirectly affected by the proposal. Whakapapa creates connection to both physical and spiritual worlds. Features of the physical world are not just physical resources but entities in their own right that mana whenua have an obligation to care for and protect (kaitiakitanga)." Mr Pou
Ahi Kaa submitters also described the disruption and mamae (pain) the people felt at seeing and hearing the hum of dredge vessels day and night for decades and seeing first hand effects on the beach and dunes. Sand extraction activity has had a cumulative adverse effect on these values, representing a slow degradation of whenua and a reduction in mana.
They also hold serious concerns about the depletion of key taonga species, and risks to them due to the operation of the sand extraction vessel and dredging of their feeding habitat.
Sand mining boat at Pakiri
Olivia Haddon referred to the plight of a number of ‘cultural keystone species’, including whai (sting ray), tara iti (fairy tern), and tohora (whales) which are seen as kaitiaki (guardians) in themselves and indicators of cultural health. Besides their role in the ecosystem, these species are significant in tribal folklore, language, traditions and identity. A number of Ahi Kaa submitters described their involvement with DOC in fairy tern conservation efforts including monitoring and habitat protection and restoration.
Ms Haddon expressed concern that mātauranga Māori and tikanga were not appropriately recognised and provided for in this resource consent process. She emphasized the nature of traditional ecological knowledge including the daily observations of Ahi Kaa, stating:
“Time is running out, real damage is occurring. Fundamentally we ask for better management of our seafloor biodiversity, our sea creatures, the children of Tangaroa, because we consider, based on our intimate every day observations, that the ecological and whakapapa damage caused by sand mining is more than minor.”
Ms John, provided an oral statement for Te Whanau o Pakiri, and focused on the inadequacy of the consideration of climate change in the application and the inadequacy of the cumulative effects assessment undertaken.
"We cannot currently determine the long-term or cumulative effects of the dredging activity on sediment transport and should not consent an activity whose effects cannot be determined."
Mr Tamati Stevens provided a cultural perspective on biodiversity in the Taiao (living environment) on behalf of Te Whanau o Pakiri.
He explained that in the case of Pakiri, the lack of living shellfish, in combination with other essential ecosystem services can cause regular algae blooms, not because of the eutrophication, but due to the lack of Karepō (sea grass) meadows in combination with the lack of life.
“If, the Karepō is failing, then the Takeke cannot tukuna (lay) ā rātou (their) hēki (eggs) Ki (in) te (the) pupuhuka (foam) o te (of the) tai rea (hightide), tai pariata (morning tide) o (of) te (the) Oturu (full moon), matitimuramura (Manuka white flowers are blooming indicating spring).” (Makiha, Wananga at ParoreRahi, 2019).
The Auckland Council have acknowledged that according to mātauranga and the lived experience and observations of the Ahi Kaa, the whakapapa and interrelationships with other species such as Tuangi (cockle), Tipa (scallop), Tara iti (fairy tern), Whai (sting ray) and Tohora (whale) are altered and diminished as a result of the ongoing sand extraction activity. Further, this has consequences in terms of kaitiakitanga, mauri, mana and manaakitanga.
Concerns relating to the New Zealand fairy tern or tara-iti and New Zealand dotterels were the subject of a number of submissions and acknowledged that:
"the seabird with the most significant potential for population level effects is the nationally and critically threatened fairy tern".
Tara iti, NZ Fairy Tern parent and chicks on the Mangawhai sand spit. Photo: Jacob Ball, DOC
Ian Southey, an ornithologist for Te Whanau o Pakiri, has undertaken several research projects on the fairy tern. He was concerned about the lack of assessment on these threatened and at risk species of birds that use the proposed sand extraction site.
He explained that the fairy tern is New Zealand’s rarest endemic bird. Since 2012 all five deaths of fairy tern have taken place in the one or two breeding pairs at Pakiri and Te Arai, but none elsewhere. He advised these are the breeding pairs most dependent on the area affected by the sand mining and he is concerned that the sand extraction may limit future population growth. He stated:
“if sand mining has affected food supplies enough to play a role in this mortality it would be a major concern.”
To read the full decision from the Auckland Council and summary of submissions you can read this PDF.
Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou
Thank you to everyone who has helped us get this far in the fight to save our sands. From signing petitions, sending letters to the Auckland Council, representing at submission hearings, and sharing the messages of this important issue, we have all made a difference to get to this point. Thank you also to the Auckland Council for making the right decision and listening to us, the people. We hope that together we can end this sand mining once and for all.