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 organisation that was created to fight the marina proposal, has been working closely with Save the Waves Coalition, an international surf protection organisation, 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 advisory board member James Pribram, as well as two representatives from Surfbreak Protection Society, Grant McIntosh and Vice President 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 focused 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 and has been since the 1960’s," states Surfbreaks President Paul Shanks. "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 former Minister for the Environment, Hon. Chris Carter, in 2005, and local surfers thought that the threat was gone. However, the proposal resurfaced due to a change in protocol - something that the surfers say is highly suspicious - and then approved by the next 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."
To learn more about the fight to save Whanga Bar, visit the below websites: