'Enough is enough, stop the sediment dump' - Great Barrier locals

By D'Angelo Martin

Great Barrier Island locals and iwi have had enough of their seas being treated as a dumping ground. They have taken to the streets of Auckland to protest against an Environment Protection Authority ruling that gives the green light to increase the dumping of sediment 25 kilometres off the east coast of the island.

In February, the authority gave Coastal Resources Ltd permission to increase the amount of sediment it dumps from 50,000 cubic metres to 250,000 cubic metres annually for 35 years.

Valmaine Toki, who is handling the legal appeal against the ruling, says, "Raising the community awareness culturally and also socially, we really need all those threads to come together to say this can't happen. This is 2019-2020 and we're still using draconian methods of disposing of our waste and we really need to consider other ways to do it."

Two hundred people took to the streets of Auckland's city centre today as part of the Protect Aotea action, which aims to raise awareness about marine life safety and take a stand against sediment dumping.

"Kāore he pai mō te EPA anō, please stop throwing all the sediment from the harbour to our fishing grounds. Ngāti Wai don't want this happening any more, kia ora rā," says Toki.

"They've brought this sediment waste onto Aotea, it's not ideal nor is it healthy for the marine life that we consume today. We're wanting to make a statement today.

"Without a doubt, this will have a huge impact. We rely on our kaimoana, we rely on that because we're Ngāti Wai people of the water. That verbally means we're seagoing, fishing people, so it'll have a huge impact," she says.

This will not only affect Great Barrier Island, but the current of sediment will potentially flow to wider parts of the east coast of New Zealand in the future.

"You think about 250,000 cubic metres of sludge for 35 years. So it's not just 10 years or 5 years and then be renewed for a further 5 years, it's 35 years. Eventually, all the iwi of the east coast are going to be affected by the sediment dump."

Later this month, steps will be taken to appeal the matter to the High Court and from there it will be determined what the next stage is for the people of Great Barrier Island.