ORC investigating beach work

Complaints made against a Dunedin construction company working at Tomahawk Beach during the breeding season of the rare New Zealand sea lion last week will be investigated, the Otago Regional Council says.

A sand extraction operation by Nash & Ross ran afoul of several members of the public on Friday when crews allegedly disturbed a mother and pup of the threatened species at the beach.

The company was working with a consent from the regional council but both the Department of Conservation and police were called to the beach.

Police did not attend, but Doc staff spoke to a Nash & Ross digger operator.

Work continued on Friday, and on the day council compliance manager Tami Sargeant said the consent for the work did not refer to wildlife, only public safety.

The sand extraction works were compliant with consent conditions, she said.

But the council position appears to have changed.

This week, Ms Sargeant confirmed the council was investigating complaints it received about the work.

Otago Peninsula community board chairman Paul Pope said the council should be working to support the rare species, not work against it.

Whether or not the construction company complied with its consent, "there is a bigger issue here".

Tomahawk Smaills Beachcare Trust deputy chairwoman Gina Huakau’s complaint alleged several instances of non-compliance.

She asked the council to provide its record of monitoring the consent conditions.

She also asked for a review of the conditions of the consent, and argued the consent was not compliant with the protection of endangered wildlife under the Marine Mammals Protection Act.

Council consents manager Joanna Gilroy said the consent the company held included conditions that could trigger a review.

Under the Resource Management Act, the council could consider the environmental effects of activities on wildlife, she said.

No decision had been made on whether the council would undertake a formal review of the consent, she said.

hamish.maclean@odt.co.nz

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