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Grapes vs Rocks

AQA Communications Adviser Brendon Burns had resolved to stay out of the fray when residents in the valley he also lives in near Blenheim, geared up to fight a local quarry consent renewal. But after three negative stories in the local paper, he felt compelled to write a response and contrast the tolerance shown for the Marlborough grape industry with the opposition to a quarry’s operations. This is his story that was published in a local newspaper.

Given I do some work for the quarry sector nationally – hereby declared – I have to date totally refrained from any public comment or submission on the Simcox quarry resource consent renewal in Omaka Valley where I am a resident.

Also, I don’t particularly wish to alienate neighbours in my community but the various articles in recent days have prompted me to write this because there has been little aired publicly to provide any contrast to what’s being said.

My wife and I have owned land here since 2001, so we are not recent arrivals. Mind you, the quarry was here long before most of us arrived, which might suggest it has some rights to continue.

During the last 20 years or so, the valley has been transformed; dry paddocks have been replaced with vineyards. We, in a small way, are among the many who’ve planted grapes and benefited.

However, collectively this means industrial scale activity in our valley. While it remains truly beautiful, it is no longer some sort of idyllic pastoral retreat as some appear to be suggesting.

Every day there are vineyard vehicles travelling up Brookby Road, often trucks carrying machinery, fertiliser or water. There is the noise of wind machines during spring and bird bangers are now making their autumnal presence felt.

Early harvesting for vintage is now upon us, so for several weeks there will be machinery operating at all hours of the day and night, including harvesters and heavily-laden trucks; sometimes driven by people who’ve probably not had enough sleep to be totally in control.

Contrast the tolerance shown for all of those activities to the opposition of a quarry which presents virtually no noise or dust issues because it’s right at the head of the valley.

Yes, quarry trucks rumble down our road (as do many other trucks) delivering the material that helps keep our rivers from flooding and ensures the Southern Valleys scheme gets its quota.

This rock and aggregate also provides some of the very foundations for all our homes and roads in the valley and well beyond. Being quite central, the quarry keeps the cost down because the big cost in quarried materials is transporting it.

Valley residents are among those who use what is produced by Simcox – it’s very convenient and cheaper than trucking it in from someone else’s distant backyard.

Are there some issues, yes, and the company seems prepared to work to find some mitigations if not solutions. We’ve already benefited from a half lane up much of Brookby Road and six kilometres of seal up Barracks Road, as part of the last resource consent.

People are of course entitled to express concerns about any activity seeking a consent. That said, very little economic activity comes without some environmental impacts.

We as a community look for a balance; in Marlborough, we generally accept the impacts that grape growing create because of the huge benefits it brings to our region.

The question posed by the quarry renewal is whether the response is proportionate from a valley where many of us also create noise, spray, dust and truck movements; with impacts on humans, birds and insects.

The argument against it is principally, not in my backyard. Though if this wins, we’d all better stand back and wait for those who pick up the argument and use it against us as grape growers.

 

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