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Dredging proposal deemed "appalling" by marine expert

Environmental Issues // September 12, 2006

The Northern Advocate newspaper in New Zealand says a marine biologist beleives a plan to try to stop the natural effects of time and tide at Matapouri Bay is "appalling stupidity".

Estuarine specialist Lew Ritchie is one of many local residents opposed to Whangarei District Council plans to dredge sand from the Matapouri Bay estuary and use it to build up the beach on the adjoining sandspit.

The movement of sand that had alarmed beachfront property owners was a natural process of tidal and storm action, he said.

"For goodness sake, that's what the sea does, and then it eventually puts it all back again," he told the newspaper.

As The Northern Advocate explained: "The district council applied last November for Northland Regional Council resource consents to dredge up to 20,000 cubic metres of sand from the shallow estuary. It also requested consent to remove a patch of mangroves."

Parks manager Glenda Bostwick said the dredging and reclamation plan followed a council assessment of the impact of sand movement at Matapouri Bay.

The council was also responding to concerns from beachfront property owners who wanted boulders dumped in front of the dunes to hold the sand - a move that would spoil the beach's aesthetic, she said.

The problem of sand accretion in the area had been recognised since monitoring began 60 years ago.

The dredging for which the council had sought resource consents was part of a series of plans "to make the beach more resilient".

Stage one, carried out last year, included restoring the shape of the dunes and planting them with native dune plants that would trap sand.

Ms Bostwick told the newspaper that dredging was necessary because the estuary was not flushing properly, partly due to a build-up of displaced sand off the beach.

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