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“We don’t want your money, just get off our beaches!”




Save Our Sands (SOS)
8 Aug, 2022


thumbnail 15 MF-Sandhearing1 copy-551Lawyers, industry expert witnesses, scientists, biologists, economists, politicians, media, sand miners, and importantly, concerned community members from Pakiri and Mangawhai, gathered together for eight days under the same roof to continue the battle over the right for sand mining company McCallum Brothers to be granted a further two mining consents to continue for the next 35 years.

For the first three days, which were held in the Warkworth Town Hall, McCallum Bros presented their case as to why they should be granted these consents. They were supported by an army of expert witnesses and legal counsel to reassure the Mangawhai to Pakiri communities that no environmental harm to our coastline had occurred over the past 70 years of their mining, and nor would there be if the mining was to continue for an extra 35 years.

In addition to addressing the prevailing environmental concerns, McCallum’s main platform for securing the consents was based on the Auckland construction industry needing our Mangawhai-Pakiri embayment sand to enable the expected future growth of Auckland.


Climate change denial

The panel of Commissioners at this hearing were new, and were not involved at the first hearing, but are well versed in its dynamics and the reasoning behind it being refused. This knowledge brought about an early question from them to Mr McCallum during his presentation, when he was asked his understanding of the meaning of precautionary practice. He did not directly answer but stated that the company had commenced an “adaptive management” process which he believed reflected their understanding of the need for a precautionary response.

A commissioner then commented that his experience of this was likened to a “suck it and see” management approach, particularly when working 35 years out. Whilst the commissioner did say later in the hearing that he had some regret for making this statement as adaptive management has a role to play in some organisations, he reaffirmed that he was not convinced it was a workable business practice for McCallum Bros.

A later question to McCallum on what their plans were in the face of climate change and rising ocean levels, was answered with “there is no proof of this, but if it does occur they would manage it then”.


Financial offers to iwi

Mr McCallum advised they had actively sought to establish strong and binding relationships with the local iwi, stating his desire to establish a community liaison group that would include the setting up of a charitable trust that could provide funding to

restore horse mussel beds and sea grass growth. This was viewed by locals as an admittance by McCallum of their mining causing the destruction of these critical elements in the marine food chain. Hardly a charitable gesture.

Local iwi later denied the approaches had been made by McCallum Bros, but acknowledged that there had been financial overtures made in order to gain their support for the applications, where in the second part of the hearing – held in the marae at Pakiri and in the Pakiri Hall – both the Maori and Pakeha presenters rejected any consideration of money, stating very strongly “enough is enough, we don’t want your money, just get off our beaches!”

On day one at the marae, the local iwi spokesperson did not just challenge McCallum, he opened by challenging the panel of commissioners on their experience and ability to make a decision, when Maori cultural values and their link to coastal impacts was something as Pakehas they may struggle in understanding.

The panel responded initially from commissioner Basil Morrison, partly in Maori, that he has been involved for eight years in the Treaty of Waitangi and its implementation. This was followed by an explanation from the chairman, Richard Blakey, of their regular updating on indigenous laws, but more importantly he expressed an empathy with the concerns raised, and this gave suitable acceptance.


Chilling response

A well-intended throw-away comment by the chair that whilst he was confident that they would reach an agreement, he noted it was interesting that prior, a room full of PHDs of the highest level could not agree if sand was coming in naturally to the area or if the area was in a state of erosion. This statement alone best exampled the need for a precautionary practice when the decision is made.

All presenters opposing the mining consents requested the precautionary practice be applied to the commissioners’ decision, based squarely on the fact that McCallum Bros had not provided required support data to overcome the wave of concerns raised.

Throughout the hearing there were many environmental messages of concern delivered, with perhaps the most chilling provided by Dr Shaw Mead, a coastal marine scientist, when asked by a commissioner: If current mining was to cease now, with no further mining allowed, in human life years, how long will it take for these beaches to recover? One-hundred-and-fifty years was Mead’s response.

On the second last day of the hearing the panel of commissioners provided a warm welcome to the Kaipara District mayor Dr Jason Smith. Whilst Auckland Council and Northern Regional Council have provided opposing submissions, mayor Smith, with the united support from his council personally addressed the hearing. His focus on the importance of the Mangawhai distal spit, the protected harbour it afforded, and the recognition of lifestyle and commercial impacts on Mangawhai as one of the fastest growing regions in all New Zealand, is now under great threat if the mining consents are granted. He urged the commissioners to decline the two applications.

At the time of writing, before the final hearing day, the Mangawhai Harbour Restoration Society have yet to present their opposing submission, which includes alternative areas of sand supply currently available of equal quality and in sustainable abundance. They will provide evidence that the Auckland construction industry will not be impacted by the closure of mining off our beautiful coast, in fact the industry could prove to be better served, with new areas of supply and alternatives to concrete being developed and commercially active globally.

The battle for the right to sand mine off the shore of Mangawhai and Pakiri coastlines continued last week, an eight day hearing that took place at the Warkworth Town Hall, Pakiri Marae, and the Pakiri Town Hall. PHOTO/SUPPLIED



“One-hundred-and-fifty years.”

– Coastal marine scientist Dr Shaw Mead, a coastal marine scientist, when asked if current mining was to cease now, with no further mining allowed, in human life years, how long will it take for these beaches to recover.

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