A beach-grooming machine has had its first outing since it was bought by a Paihia volunteer group last year.
The impetus for buying the machine came from a storm in January 2011 that left Paihia's beaches buried in debris.
The Far North District Council mounted a clean-up ahead of Waitangi Day, but another storm days later buried the beach again just as a cruise ship was due to arrive. The council said it had no money left so volunteers carried out the clean-up instead.
The community trust Focus Paihia was granted $200,000 by Pub Charities for a state-of-the-art, German-made beach grooming machine, but had to go to the environment court for a consent to operate it.
The main objection came from the Ornithological Society. Far North branch member Carol Davies said the groomer could harm sand-dwelling insects, a food source for birds such as the endangered New Zealand dotterel, which frequented Bay of Islands beaches.
Consent was granted with a raft of conditions, including a beach inspection before use during breeding season and limits on how often the machine could be used. It can be operated on Paihia and Te Tii Beaches but not at Te Haumi or other beaches in the area.
The environmental group Bay Bush Action will clean the northernmost section of Te Tii Beach by hand, from the roundabout to the Waitangi River mouth.
The machine had its first outing on Wednesday, collecting about 4cu m of twigs and rubbish. Volunteers picked out the glass, fishing line and cans while the rest was taken to a farm to be burned.
Focus Paihia chairman Grant Harnish said he was disappointed it had taken so long to be able to use the machine, but was pleased with the results.
"We don't get paid to clean the beach. We're only doing it because it's what the community wanted. If the community decides after six or 12 months they don't want the beach cleaner, it'll go away."
But Mrs Davies still had concerns about the machine's effects on birdlife. While an ecological study of the beaches had been carried out, an invertebrate survey should have been done before grooming was allowed to start, she said.