A recent decision by the Environment Court has affirmed that the Brookby and Drury quarries – Auckland’s two biggest suppliers – don’t need to avoid vegetation removal in seeking to strip overburden.
From the AQA newsletters (Q&M October-November 2021).
In an earlier decision, the Independent Hearings Panel on Auckland’s Unitary Plan (AUP) had removed this requirement in a quarry zone.
Forest and Bird and the Environmental Defence Society appealed to the High Court and the requirement was reinstated.
Brookby Quarry appealed this to the Environment Court and Fulton Hogan joined the proceedings. They sought a specific policy and objective framework which recognised the need to remove vegetation to remove overburden and enable mineral extraction.
Forest and Bird and EDS said the usual requirements should apply so that adverse effects had to first be avoided, where practicable.
The Auckland Council highlighted the difficulty in avoiding adverse effects at the same time as enabling extraction of aggregate. It wanted a clear framework in place to avoid difficulties when it came to processing consents.
The Environment Court did not accept the opponents’ submissions that there was a mandatory obligation on regional councils to maintain indigenous biodiversity. While accepting that this was important, it was not an environmental bottom line.
AQA chief Wayne Scott says the court’s decision is a victory for common-sense.
“Clearly, you can’t provide aggregate if you can’t remove overburden. This was a bit like the natural wetlands issue where quarrying activities were constrained, rather than looking for offsetting environmental gains.
“Quarries often remove flora and fauna before they develop an area and that can lead to a boost for bio-diversity.”