Indigenous | Environment

Victory for Pākiri mana whenua may be shortlived as fast-track approval bill offers miners another chance

The third generation of a whanau trying stop sand mining at Pākiri Beach north of Auckland is finally celebrating a court win but Te Whānau o Pākiri chairperson Olivia Haddon says she is now hoping it won’t be overturned if the miner applies for fast-track consent.

The fast-track law has been put forward by the coalition government and will allow three ministers to overrule local decisions and court rulings to allow developments to go ahead.

The Environment Court has ruled against McCallum Brothers’ appeal of an Auckland Council decision to refuse to allow it to mine sand at Pākiri Beach.

Many companies have dredged at Pākiri since the 1940s including McCallum Brothers and Kaipara Ltd. This, however, was the first time McCallum Brothers applied for consent in offshore mining. The application was for three million cubic metres over a period of 30 years but then changed to an application for two million cubic metres over 20 years.

Haddon said the court refused the application for many reasons – the impacts of extraction on coastal processes, the impacts on ecology, and the effects on the mana whenua of Pākiri.

The dredging battle has been fought over generations and Haddon said whānau had long had a sense of disbelief and felt its values weren’t adhered to or understood but this time they felt heard. She said the whanau was both surprised and relieved at the court decision.

Haddon wanted to acknowledge the communities who had long fought the battle – environmental organisations, local communities, iwi organisations led by Ngāti Wai and Ngāti Manuhiri, the ahi kā of Pākiri and Omaha marae, as all worked together united to oppose the application.

But this victory may be short-lived if the fast-track approval bill comes into action.

Earlier this week, Te Ao Māori News spoke with Juressa Lee from Greenpeace on the impacts this would have on environment and tāngata whenua.

We asked Haddon if she was worried the decision would be overturned under the proposed fast-track approval system. She replied: “We are very concerned about the fast-track bill and what it means for applications. We’re not against having a streamlined approach and a better, more efficient approach to building significant infrastructure for Aotearoa and our communities.“

Opponents have long argued that dredging is essential because of Auckland’s growing demand for concrete but on the contrary Haddon said there isn’t currently a sand supply crisis and there are other sources that haven’t reached the consented capacity in land, marine and there are growing alternatives of manufactured sand.

“We feel the goal post has shifted. We’ve finally got a goal over the line and now have another hurdle to cross. Our minds have turned to the fast-track bill, we hope the safeguards are in place, and a decision, robust decision made by the Environment Court, is not overturned.”

—  Olivia Haddon