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Posted: 26 September 2005

Continuing illegal sand removal concerns Regional Council

People illegally taking sand, pebbles and boulders from the region’s beaches could worsen erosion and other problems and risk prosecution if caught, the Northland Regional Council warns.

Both the Regional Council and locals are becoming increasingly concerned at people who are continuing to take sand, pebbles and boulders from the beaches throughout the north.

Tony Dwane, a Whangarei-based Coastal Monitoring Officer with the Regional Council, says the problem is a long-standing and ongoing one – with only the amount of sand and other material being taken varying from year to year.

“Historically, the Northland Regional Council has encountered people taking truckloads of sand from the foreshore, although in the past year or two most incidents have involved smaller to moderate amounts.”

Mr Dwane says the sand is apparently being removed as a “sneaky and illegal” way to obtain landscaping materials for gardens or as free fill for properties adjacent to beaches.

“The Northland Regional Council is concerned about these practises, not only because they are illegal (a resource consent is required to remove any sediments from the beach), but also because over time, the continual removal of beach sediments can have a negative impact on the beach environment.”

Mr Dwane says removing sand and other beach sediments can cause increased erosion and alter the natural physical and biological characteristics of a beach.

At this stage, the Council had no evidence to suggest specific beaches were being targeted.

“However, many of Northland’s beaches – including Ahipara and Omapere - have been through quite marked erosion cycles recently, so people removing sediment from systems like these will only potentially add to erosion problems and possible property losses’.

He says while it might not appear that way, sand, pebbles and boulders at many beaches are actually a very small resource that can literally take hundreds of years to accumulate.

“Much of the local sediments at beaches has derived slowly over time from local sources such as erosion of rocky headlands, the breakdown of shell material and an intermittent supply from the open coast and adjacent sand dunes”.

Mr Dwane says the penalties for taking sand or other sediments from beaches range from an instant fine to being prosecuted.

He says anyone who sees people taking sand or other sediment from beaches should report it immediately to the Northland Regional Council’s 24-hour freephone Environmental Hotline on (0800) 504 639.