Kiwi Point Quarry’s consent to extend the existing area of the quarry highlights a problem all regions now face in this country when it comes to our aggregate resources.
Last month Wellington City Council approved recommendations on a District Plan Change to extend Holcim’s Kiwi Point Quarry located close to Wellington city. Original submitters to the consent now have the opportunity to appeal the decision to the Environment Court.
The council approved an independent hearing panel that made recommendations on a District Plan Change 83 for Kiwi Point Quarry, following public hearings in December 2018 – Wellington City Councillors looked at these recommendations on May 1.
The council has owned the quarry for the extraction of high quality basalt blue rock since the 1920s and has leased it out for some time. Under its current operator Holcim, its consent has also been up for sale. With the new Holcim country manager, Kevin Larkin from Australia, due to take up the role, industry speculates that the company will re-look at its quarry assets and its previous ‘exit’ strategy.
Based on the current extraction rate, the north face of the quarry has only a few years of rock left. The extension to the south face will ensure the supply of aggregate for another 15-20 years. About 60 percent of aggregate currently produced in Kiwi Point Quarry is used for road construction.
Located in the Ngauranga Gorge, 10 kilometres from the city centre, the quarry has been a convenient and cost-effective location. It is estimated that the city saves about $2 million per year in road construction costs alone because of its location. Local rates would have likely increased if the quarry was no longer available.
By 2043 there will be between 50,000 to 80,000 more residents in the central city and to the north of the city who will require more amenities, houses and roads.
The council sought public feedback in 2017 and accepted the proposal to expand the quarry. The extension of the quarry offered the maximum development of an already established quarry.
A veteran’s take on Wellington’s aggregate resources
A number of documents and presentations over the past four decades reveal that the local authorities in the Wellington area have been repeatedly warned over the life of its existing rock reserves, and the need to set up a planning mechanism for long-term aggregate supply and ‘sterilisation’ of potential rock resources from urban developments.
Industry veteran consultant George Cunningham worked with Holcim on several of its Kiwi Point quarry site’s planning issues from 1988 through to the early 2000s, including its application to amend the then-proposed Wellington City District Plan change in 1997.
“That application sought to provide ongoing access to sufficient rock resource to allow quarrying within the then-existing consented site boundary to continue until the early 2020s,” he says.
Among his records George has a copy of a Geological Report prepared by Ian Grant and Martin Ward dated June 1978 and titled ‘Planning for mineral Resources in the Wellington Region’.
“This report addresses the then-current demand for, and the future supply options of, aggregates consumed within the Wellington Region
“It covered the planned closing of the last four gravel extraction plants that were at that time processing gravels won from the bed of the Hutt River.
“This report also references both the expected resource life of the hard rock quarries that were operating at that time within the Wellington Region and possible long term, replacement, hard rock quarry sites.
Since the date of the publishing of the Grant/Ward Report, two long established and significant Wellington quarries (one opened in about 1918 and the other in 1926) were closed in the mid 1990s.
George says the passing of the Resource Management Act in 1991 was a prime factor in these closures.
“It is my belief that both sites had significant volumes of easily extractable rock resource remaining.
“Sadly, this lack of forward planning for the future replacement sources of quarry products is evident in every region around the country. And Central Government provides no leadership in this matter.
“Over the many decades that I have been involved in studying the wider quarry industry planning matters, I have never observed, in any regional or district planning Reviews, any recognition by any council of the need to protect existing quarry resource areas, or any attempt to state the urgent need to identify areas of future quarry resource reserves.
“Clearly all councils throughout our nation, with the support of the very communities that daily rely upon the ready availability of quarried materials, choose to adopt the NIMBY [approach] to the existence of quarry activity.”
The outcome of this situation will continue to add to the already high cost of construction and regional development due to the need to transport aggregates over ever greater distances, George adds.
“In some countries, such as the UK, government policy requires that a suitable land bank exist that is sufficient to provide aggregates for at least a 10-year period.
“New Zealand has no defined system for identifying and/or reserving significant quarry-able rock for future generations.”
So it is ironic, he adds, that we also have extensive legislation relating to land and resource use.
“Each city and district council is required to have in place an ‘operative plan’ to cover any type of land use, which should, but in my opinion, does not, include for the future extraction of aggregates.
“If there is not an urgent change by central and local government to protect existing quarries and to preventing the protection of future quarry resource areas, we can only resort to importing quarried products from, say, Chile or Peru.”