Vermonters for a Clean Environment
|This small tree, Myrsine argentea or silver matipo, is from the Myrtle family and is endemic to Mt Burnett. It was named by botanists in 1998. Like most New Zealand native plants it hasinconspicuous flowers. [Dean Baigent-Mercer]||Detail of the silver matipo foliage with a native jasmine growing thru. This tree is classified as 'nationally vulnerable' to extinction due solely to OMYA's mining operations on Mt Burnett. [Dean Baigent-Mercer]|
The Nelson Mail (New Zealand)
August 22, 2002, Thursday
Conservation land 'not safe'
New Zealand's conservation lands need better protection from mining, says Forest and Bird writer Dean Baigent-Mercer.
On June 7 this year, the government of Costa Rica announced a ban on open cast exploration and mining to protect the country's natural wealth - the basis of Costa Rica's tourism industry. Costa Rican President Abel Pacheco declared, ''These (mining) practices can be a real threat to living beings. With this initiative we are lifting our voice to the world, asking that our natural resources be valued. This is a declaration of peace for nature and the environment.'' Unlike Costa Rica's strong stance, conservation land in New Zealand is not safe from mining.
''Mining has a very privileged status on conservation land,'' says Forest and Bird's Eugenie Sage.
''Despite often destroying native vegetation and habitat, there is no chance under the Conservation Act for the public to have a say on mining impacts, as there are for other major commercial activities such as tourism.''
Legally, all commercial activities such as a new ski-field, air tourism landings, guided tourist walks, or stock grazing on conservation land require a permit or concession from the Department of Conservation. Activities likely to have significant impacts on conservation values are notified by D0C to allow the public to comment.
Public views on what should happen on public land played no formal part in Conservation Minister Sandra Lee's controversial decision last year to decline consent to GRD Macraes' application. The company proposed to double the size of its open-cast goldmine and affect 550 ha of native forest in Victoria Conservation Park, near Reefton.
In contrast, if the company had wanted to establish a tourist lodge on a two-hectare site within the park, public submissions would have been sought.
Conservationists are concerned that natural features, landscapes and wildlife habitat which are destroyed or damaged by the impacts of mining are not properly considered when mining applications are being decided.
Without public input and scrutiny DOC becomes vulnerable to pressure from mining companies.
Presently decisions are being made behind closed doors between DOC and Swiss-owned OMYA NZ Ltd over extending a dolomite quarry on Mt Burnett, near Collingwood in Golden Bay.
Many unusual plants, including six endangered species found nowhere else grow amidst Mt Burnett's windshorn shrublands and stunted forest. The area has been quarried since 1959 and now less than 40 percent of the rare and internationally significant dolomite forest remains.
OMYA wants to push a road through conservation land to get to higher areas of its dolomite mining site, despite already having access to another 20 years worth of dolomite. The road would wipe out more of the rare plants in an area that has been set aside for their conservation again, without any public input.
Another case in point is the proposed Pike River coal mine. The Pike River Coal Company is seeking permission to mine more than 6.5 million tonnes of coal annually, including under Paparoa National Park on the West Coast.
To get access to the mine the company wants to bulldoze an 11 km road up the unroaded Pike Valley in the eastern Paparoa Range, through areas of pristine and strongly regenerating native forest. Earthworks for the road route may cause major sedimentation and pollution of the river whose quiet deep pools are much enjoyed by people fishing.
This lowland rimu and beech forest is habitat to at least six threatened species, including kaka, kereru, and great spotted kiwi. The road and the construction of at least 12 bridges will also destroy the area's wild character.
Monitoring by the West Coast Regional Council has shown that between 150 and 500 kilometres of streams on the West Coast have been contaminated by acid mine drainage, which has resulted significant adverse effects to aquatic life.
''Acid mine damage - in terms of the extent of effects on freshwater ecology on the West Coast - is probably the major issue that we have facing water quality; in general, more so than dairy farm effluent,'' says Trevor James, the Environmental Monitoring Officer for the West Coast Regional Council.
The IUCN (International Union of Conservation of Nature) has called on all its member states including New Zealand to prohibit by law all mineral exploration and mining in various categories of protected area including national parks, national reserves, nature reserves, scientific reserves, scenic reserves, conservation parks, ecological areas and marine reserves.
Whether the New Zealand Government will have the wisdom of its Costa Rican counterpart remains to be seen.
Nelson Evening Mail Limited
The Nelson Mail (Nelson)
October 9, 1999, Saturday
Couple may take action over decision
A Golden Bay couple planning to build a restaurant and shop complex at Port Tarakohe say they are considering taking legal action against the Tasman District Council, after a decision this week by the council's Port Tarakohe subcommittee.
Steve and Heather Kirner hope to build the development on reserve land at the port, under a resource consent applied for and granted to the council in January.
However the committee, meeting in Takaka on Thursday, voted unanimously to drop the restaurant and shop proposal as a way of getting around opposition holding up the council's $ 940,000 development of the port. Three companies -- Challenger Scallop Enhancement Company, Omya (New Zealand) and the Golden Bay Cement Company -- have appealed resource consents granted to the council.
The council's corporate services manager, David Ward, told the committee the companies had withdrawn their opposition to the consents covering the narrowing of the harbour entrance and marina development, but not to the Kirner proposal.
Committee chairman Paul Sangster suggested the Kirner proposal be ''pulled out'' and ''we could come back to it later on''.
Earlier, committee member and Golden Bay Community Board chairman Harry Holmwood said the three companies had not ''pulled their end of the stick'' as far as mediation was concerned, and the committee needed ''to get on with the development''.
The committee voted to drop the Kirner proposal as long as the three appellants guaranteed not to lodge any more objections to the rest of the development.
Mr Kirner said the committee's decision had stunned him and he would be in touch with his legal people to decide the next step.
''We feel let down.''
The committee's decision had come out of the blue and there had been no consultation with him.
He said he was unsure if the council could do what it did. One option for him and his wife was to re-submit the proposal in their own name.
Mr Kirner said he felt sorry for Golden Bay after the committee's decision.
''We're trying to set up a business that could employ 10 or 12 people, and we can't get anywhere.''
The three appellants say the Kirner proposal is inappropriate in the context of a working port and would lead to a de facto establishment of a commercial zone in an inappropriate place.
Commissioner John Lumsden, in granting resource consents to the council, criticised the companies' evidence opposing the Kirner proposal, calling it ''long on legal argument'' but short on ''specific reasoning''.
The committee went into closed session to discuss a private commercial proposal for the port.
In other business, a letter from the Golden Bay Motueka Fishermen's Association was tabled outlining its concerns about damage to the wharf by the large Sea Tow dolomite barge and the washing of dolomite into the harbour after each loading.
Nelson Evening Mail Limited
The Nelson Mail (Nelson)
July 21, 2001, Saturday
Storm at the port
Not all is tranquil at Port Tarakohe, as Brandon Sparrow reports.
It was Golden Bay's ''golden opportunity'', according to a Nelson Mail headline in 1996.
Port Tarakohe, bought by the Tasman District Council in 1994 for $ 275,000, would provide 200 jobs and become a bustling fishing, industrial and recreational port.
The port was, so the story went, poised for major change.
Five years down the track, the council sub-committee in charge of the development is divided, the council is proving a slack revenue-gatherer on behalf of the ratepayer, and the development, supposed to have been completed in 1998, has stalled again as Tasman Mayor John Hurley champions a last-minute u-turn in the council's tediously-plotted course. As recently as last December, councillors approved plans to extend the port's outer eastern breakwater to provide protection for a marina development.
Extensive consultation had been carried out, resource consents sought and granted by an independent commissioner, and there appeared to be majority support for the option. Various key players within the council acknowledged it appeared to be the way to go, based on public support and engineering advice.
But by April this year all that had changed.
Hurley made a rare appearance at a sub-committee meeting to inform its members they were going ''headlong into a brick wall'' with their plans. And with the backing of Paul Sangster and Barry Cashman, two members of his council who are also sub-committee members, he forced a halt to those plans.
The about-face has come because Hurley says he's concerned for the dolomite industry. Dolomite from Collingwood earns the port something like half its income, $ 80,000 in the past year.
After a series of private meetings with Solly's Contractors, which trucks the dolomite to Tarakohe, representatives from Seatow, which barges it out, and Ravensdown, which then distributes it around New Zealand, Hurley is warning that extending the breakwater, thereby narrowing the harbour, would ''stuff up'' the barging of dolomite.
He warns of a repeat of problems experienced at Port Motueka, something he says his ''commonsense'' council won't have a bar of.
The mayor's preference is to extend the port's inner eastern rock arm, an option rejected by the then sub-committee in 1996. The mayor has persuaded the sub-committee to get costings on that option, despite evidence it won't be much cheaper and won't provide protection for marina berths.
Former councillor and sub-committee chairman Andy Clark, who looks a likely candidate for council elections later this year, has accused Hurley of turning democracy into dictatorship and not following due process.
Golden Bay Community Board members Carolyn McLellan and Joe Bell have expressed frustration at the lack of information coming back to the board over what is happening at Tarakohe.
''A lot of what I know I get from the newspapers and certainly not from the board,'' McLellan says.
Both community board members have since been invited to sub-committee meetings but much of its business has been held in committee, typically being kept from the public in the interests of ''commercial sensitivity''.
Some members of the sub-committee, such as community board chairman Harry Holmwood, have criticised Hurley's stalling tactics. Ivan Thompson, who represents commercial fishermen on the sub-committee, has called the mayor's actions ''strange'', coming after such a lengthy consultation with port users.
Thompson says a Seatow captain he spoke to has no problem with the narrowing of the entrance. Back in 1996 during the submission process, Seatow favoured an option which included narrowing of the entrance.
However, the company's official line as of last week, via its fleet superintendent Dick Mogridge, is that it would prefer no changes to the harbour entrance.
It still leaves the mayor in conflict with the submission process and the decisions of commissioner John Lumsden who granted resource consents 21/2 years ago for the port development.
On the narrowing of the harbour Mr Lumsden concluded the new width would be ''consistent with accepted (shipping) practices'' and the benefits would outweigh any possible negative effects.
The commissioner took his cue largely from the evidence of the engineer who designed the present harbour 22 years ago, Gary Teear, and the harbourmaster, Colin Pettit.
Port Nelson Ltd has also given the council advice on the breakwater issue, which tends to further isolate Hurley. The company says narrowing the harbour entrance would not greatly restrict activities at the port. Further, the new width would be within international shipping guidelines.
3arakohe was an entirely man-made port built by the Golden Bay Cement Company to ship out cement, but is now used by recreational boaties, commercial fishermen, mussel harvesters and, of course, Seatow.
The council's development of the port began with a lengthy consultation process so thorough it was held up as a model for future council projects.
After looking at a number of development options the sub-committee and the councillors ofthe time approved the plan for narrowing the entrance and constructing new marinas in December 1996.
Disagreement between the council and the Golden Bay Cement Company over where harbour dredgings could be dumped held up the lodging of resource consents, which were eventually notified in August 1997. Commissioner Lumsden granted the consents with conditions after hearing submissions in Takaka.
However, three companies -- Mintech (now Omya NZ Ltd), Golden Bay Cement Company and Challenger Scallop Enhancement Company -- appealed the consents.
They objected, among other things, to the narrowing of the entrance -- it would limit the future potential use of the port -- and a proposal for a restaurant-office complex on land fringing the harbour, which they argued was inappropriate for a working industrial port.
In his decision Mr Lumsden was somewhat scathing of the companies' claims.
On the restaurant-office proposal he found the companies presented ''no convincing evidence'' that the complex would compromise their operations, and criticised their case as long on legal argument but short on specific reasoning.
And on the narrowing of the harbour, the companies' concerns about restricted port access were, again, ''not supported by the evidence presented''.
The sub-committee ultimately skirted around the companies' objections by dropping the restaurant-office proposal from the council's consent umbrella, which brought a threat of legal action from the proposal's backers, Steve and Heather Kirner.
Their proposal had strong local backing and, according to the Kirners, would have employed 10-12 people. The couple have since left the bay.
Tenders for the rest of the development were called in October 1999, almost a year before the Environment Court signed off the consents in September 2000.
In October 2000 a meeting of port users in Takaka endorsed the council's move to narrow the harbour entrance.
Then in December last year yet another group of councillors (the second in five years) approved the raising of a loan for developing Port Tarakohe -- roughly along the same lines as the councillors in 1996.
However, according to Hurley, at the same meeting he got councillors to agree to further consultation with port users. And it's the lack of that consultation which he has used to justify his opposition to the work now proceeding.
There are various other headaches for the council at Port Tarakohe -- arguments over the fate of the old Golden Bay Cement Company office block, and the port's financial situation.
It's supposed to be funded by user pays, but it seems the users aren't always paying.
The council's corporate services manager, David Ward, has told the sub-committee that ''a hell of a lot of outstanding money'' is owed by port users; the mussel industry alone is said to owe at least $ 15,000 for wharf use, although the council has been slow in sending out invoices to collect its money. It says it's addressing that.
Accurate estimates of what is going across the wharf are proving difficult to get.
A mailing box at the port put there by the harbourmaster on June 1 for depositing waybills by trucking firms carting mussels has so far had no use -- yet an estimated 1200 tonnes of mussels have come over the wharf in that month, worth around $ 4000 in wharfage fees to the council.
More significantly, the council's own estimates of income from a redeveloped port raise questions -- such as will its estimated $ 183,000 income stream meet operating and debt servicing costs?
Critics of the Hurley alternative say it will prevent further staged development of the port and thereby negate the potential for future revenue.
The lack of progress has led Nelson MP Nick Smith to call for the port to be vested with Port Nelson Ltd and taken out of ''the quagmire of local body politics'' to allow development to happen.
Port Nelson has the expertise, Golden Bay needs the jobs, he reasons.
The sub-committee has sounded out Port Nelson Ltd to do a management plan for the port -- issues like the compatibility of loading dolomite with the off-loading of fish products would be considered under such a plan.
But, as Ward says, ''until we have confirmed which development we are doing, there's nothing to write a management plan about''.
According to the mayor, meanwhile, development is ''on hold'' at Port Tarakohe, which means recommendations from the sub-committee's April meeting, including costing of the mayor's alternative breakwater option, are not being actioned.
He's maintaining his opposition to the narrowing of the entrance.
And on Smith's suggestion to vest the port with Port Nelson Ltd he says he does not have a problem with it, but the time is not appropriate.
''The port is not a tidy package -- there are several issues including road legalisation to sort out before we say, 'here you go boys, get on with it'.''
The next sub-committee meeting is not until August, just two months before local body elections. The litany of delays in the Port Tarakohe project could well be prominent in Golden Bay voters' minds as they decide the fate of the political masters who have yet to find a satisfactory conclusion to the saga.