WDC granted Matapouri beach replenishment consents

18 Oct 2019, 10:23 AM

An independent commissioner has granted the Whangarei District Council (WDC) a 20-year consent to dredge sand from the Matapouri Estuary and use it to replenish and maintain the nearby popular beach and spit.

Commissioner Sharon McGarry heard the WDC’s application on behalf of the Northland Regional Council in mid-August this year, with her decision formally released yesterday.

During the hearing, the applicant agreed it would only extract sand from the estuary once every five years and Ms McGarry said her assessment of environmental effects had been undertaken on that basis.

The WDC’s application – publicly notified in late March this year – had attracted 30 submissions; 17 opposed, eight supportive and five neutral.

Opponents’ concerns included factors including costs, the proposal was a ‘short-term fix’, a belief that nature ‘should be left to its own’, various adverse environmental effects and the fact the natural systems at work in the location involved were dynamic, requiring a survey to confirm just how much sand was present there before any extraction.

Supporters believed the work was necessary to maintain and protect the beach, dune and spit and would offer improved beach access via new walkways and stairways.  There was also support on cultural value grounds.

In a detailed decision running to more than 30 pages, Ms McGarry said that overall, she was satisfied the proposed activities “can be carried out without resulting in any significant adverse environmental effects on ecological values, cultural values and relationships, and coastal processes”.

“I accept the proposed works will have positive effects on the amenity of values of Matapouri beach and will enhance the resilience of the upper beach and sand dune system to coastal erosion.”

Ms McGarry said she was also satisfied public access to and along the foreshore would be improved and recreational values of the beach enhanced.

“I consider the proposed works will increase the protection and resilience of natural defences against coastal hazards and reduce the risk posed to public and private land and structures from coastal hazards.”

The proposal was consistent with national planning guidance that encouraged soft engineering solutions “to reduce risk and allow time for the implementation of long-term sustainable solutions”.

Noting the WDC had originally sought a 30-year consent term, Ms McGarry said in the circumstances, she considered 20-years appropriate.

“In making this determination, I have taken into account the uncertainty around climate change and SLR (sea level rise), the 10-year statutory planning cycle, and the need for further community input in the future long-term solutions.”

A 20-year consent term allowed for up to four extraction events from the estuary and provided sufficient certainty and cost efficiency for the council.

At the same time, the term balanced “the need to review the results of monitoring and ensure significant adverse environmental effects continue to be avoided over the term of the consent”.

Ms McGarry’s decision is now subject to appeal for 15 working days.

Her full decision – including details of all the conditions – is available at www.nrc.govt.nz/consentdecisions