Representatives from Save The Waves Coalition and Surfbreak Protection Society met with Maori Party Leader Tariana Turia last Thursday, to discuss the marina proposal in Whangamata, which surfers fear will compromise the quality of one of the best surf spots on New Zealand’s North Island.
Surfbreak Protection Society, a non-profit that was created to save surfbreaks like Whangamata Bar, has been working closely with Save The Waves Coalition, an international surf protection organization, over the past six months to find ways to prevent the destruction of Whanga Bar, a perfectly-formed sand spit at the mouth of the Whangamata Estuary that produces world-class surfing waves. The marina proposal threatens to dredge massive amounts of sand from within the estuary, to provide additional space to accommodate 205 more berths. Studies conducted on such a proposal have suggested that such a dredging project could upset the natural equilibrium of the estuary and its relationship with the sand spit, a delicate balance that has produced perfect surf for over seven thousand years.
Attending the meeting were Save The Waves Coalition executive director Will Henry and pro surfer environmentalist James Pribram, as well as two members from Surfbreak Protection Society, Grant McIntosh and Michael Gunson. Ms. Turia expressed support for the cause of preventing the dredging project, citing the fact that valuable shellfish beds would be lost inside the estuary, which is a traditional Maori food source. The meeting also focussed on the financial supporters of the marina, who appear to be backing it in order to make a large return on their investment, without care for the long-term economic health of the region.
“Whanagmata is a surf town,” states Surfbreaks President Paul Shanks, “and has been since the 1960’s. Boating has always been a small part of the economy here. But in the last few years, a lot of people have been moving here and want more berths for their big yachts. Problem is, they want to do it regardless of the consequence, and don’t really care if what they do harms the surf.”
The proposal was denied by the Minister for Conservation, Hon. Chris Carter, in 2005, and local surfers thought that the threat was gone. However, the proposal resurfaced following a judicial review of Carter’s decision and was subsequently approved by the Minister for the Environment, Hon. David Benson-Pope. “It’s just another case of wealthy investors trying to manipulate the political system to get what they want: more money,” states Will Henry of Save The Waves. “It’s obvious that this project is not only unnecessary, but selfish, destructive, and driven by greed. It must be stopped.”