13 May 2024

Pākiri residents would be 'crushed' if sand mining fast-tracked, committee told

4:09 pm on 13 May 2024
Mangawhai Beach protest meeting over McCallum Bros sand mining

Pākiri and Mangawhai locals protest against sand mining at their beaches north of Auckland. Photo: Save Our Sand Mangawhai Pakiri/ Elevated Media

Allowing sand mining at a beach north of Auckland to go ahead under proposed fast-track legislation would be "crushing", a community group has told politicians.

Friends of Pākiri Beach was among submitters presenting to the environment select committee on the Fast-track Approvals Bill on Monday.

The proposed law would sit over a range of existing acts and regulations and would mean an application would only need to go through one process for approval instead of several consents under the existing system.

Owners of projects with "significant regional or national benefits" could apply to the three responsible ministers for access to the process.

Friends of Pākiri Beach were engaged in a years-long fight to stop sand mining in the waters off the beach.

The group said the continual taking of sand had eroded the beach, affected wildlife and undermined mana whenua's ability to act as kaitiaki (guardians) of their environment.

Last month, the Environment Court ruled that offshore sand mining could not occur.

However, Friends of Pākiri Beach was concerned the Fast-track Approvals Bill could throw aside court rulings and allow projects courts have already ruled against to go ahead.

McCallum Bros, the company wanting to take 2 million cubic metres of sand from the area, has appealed the Environment Court ruling in the High Court.

It would not say if it had applied for fast tracking but had made a written submission on the Bill, mostly in support of it.

The Bill also proposes locking members of the public out of being able to have input on individual projects.

Friends of Pākiri Beach's treasurer Nick Williams told the committee it was local groups that had worked to expose breaches of consent conditions, including deep trenches in the seabed caused by mining and incorrect calculations made by the sand mining company's expert.

"For someone to come along and just simply say, 'Well, we've missed out on this, battled away for four years, but here's an easy out', that would be crushing for us," he said.

"It would be an absolute travesty of justice."

Williams was among a small fraction of submitters who were given the opportunity to speak to the Environment Committee about the Bill.

Of the 27,000 people who submitted on the Bill and 2900 requests to present their submissions, the committee decided to hear from 1100 submitters. That included all 550 organisations who made submissions, and a random ballot selection of 550 individuals.

Wood Processors and Manufacturers Association spokesperson Mark Ross said the organisation supported the "intent" of the Bill but asked for more clarity on how reconsenting would be handled and about local representation on expert panels.

His submission was based on the biofuel and fibre product industry. Overseas investors had "turned their back" on New Zealand due to over-regulation and uncertainty, he said.

Many other submitters presenting to the committee were unsupportive of the Bill.

The Environment Law Students' Association said it displayed a "complete disregard for environmental protection, which would take New Zealand backwards".

Spokesperson Catherine Marshall said the Bill also disregarded the democratic process. "This sort of distribution of power is not how democracy works."

Forest and Bird Youth campaign coordinator Ella Peoples said the group agreed the Resource Management Act was not fit for purpose, but the proposed law was "not a viable way forward". Poor planning and lax environmental standards could lead to disasters, she said.

The committee hearing will take up to six weeks.

Protests against the bill have already occurred, with others planned. Ngāti Toa led a hikoi to Parliament last week and several organisations have planned a 'March for Nature' on 8 June.

New Zealand's last large environmental protest was in 2010 when an estimated 50,000 people blocked Auckland's Queen Street to protest proposed mining on conservation land.

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