Marine disposal of dredge spoil—another case of out of site out of mind

Emma Waterhouse

(Environmental News #40)

On 21 May, I presented to the Hauraki Gulf Forum on behalf of the GBIET on our concerns about the lack of a strategy for the disposal of dredge spoil from Auckland and Waikato’s harbours and marinas.

The recent decision by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to grant consent to Coastal Resources Limited (CRL) to increase by 500% the volume of spoil dumped at the northern disposal site, just 25 km from Aotea|Great Barrier Island, has left many dismayed. That decision will be appealed before the High Court in July (1)

But we didn’t go to speak about the CRL application, rather the lack of a coordinated, approach to how dredge spoil will be managed in the long term. We posed five questions (see box) and challenged agencies to take accountability and make an intentional policy on how dredge spoil should be disposed of, rather than “policy” determined by individual consent applications as it is now.

Ongoing “policy” failure

The Ports of Auckland also presented to the forum. The representatives presented their plan to dredge deeper shipping channels and dispose of this material at the ‘authorised’ ‘Cuvier Dump Site’, 27 nautical miles east of Cuvier Island. The application will be lodged with the EPA in October 2019 and will include disposal of up to 2 million cubic metres of dredge material initially, with up to 50,000 cubic metres annually thereafter. To be clear, this is not the same site as the CRL one.

Five ‘authorised’ dump sites around NZ

The Cuvier Dump Site is one of five listed in the Dumping and Discharge Regulations 2015 (2). Dumping of dredged material and vessels are non‐notified activities in these locations. Outside of the sites, all dumping must be notified. Non‐notified means that the application will not be publicly notified and submissions are not sought. Applicants are required to identify any ‘interest holders’ and record any consultation undertaken (1).

New Zealand’s international obligations

The Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter was implemented in 1975. The 1996 Protocol to the convention demands all practicable steps are taken to prevent pollution of the sea by dumping of wastes and other matter (2) A key principle is avoidance, re‐use and minimisation of waste to minimise the amount of material dumped at sea.

While this principle is a well‐established requirement in New Zealand law, the ongoing dumping of dredge spoil from Auckland’s harbours into the Hauraki Gulf, let alone the increases proposed, would seem at odds with the requirement to avoid and minimise waste entering our oceans.

What you can do

Write to Phil Goff (Mayor of Auckland), Eugenie Sage (Minister of Conservation) and David Parker (Minister for the Environment) asking the five questions in the box below.


1  https://www.epa.govt


Questions to the Hauraki Gulf Forum

1. How can dredge spoil be managed without high risks to, and impacts on, the Hauraki Gulf Marine Park, its islands and marine species?

2. Are voters and ratepayers really happy for government and councils to perpetuate this practice?

3. Is the current practice meeting our international obligations to “minimise material to be dumped at sea?”

4. How can the alternatives to marine disposal be explored and fast‐tracked?

5. How can more realistic disposal costs be built into the cost of operation of ports as the region continues to grow?