The long-running Saddle Hill dispute near Dunedin may finally be coming to a conclusion. The Dunedin City Council’s resource consents manager, Alan Worthington, has confirmed that the quarry on the hill, owned by Saddle View Estates, may continue to operate under existing use rights, provided the present boundaries of the operation are not extended.
Worthington adds that an interim protection order remained in place, protecting the hill’s distinctive ridgeline, which had been the council’s primary objective.
Limits set by the Resource Management Act, together with health and safety legislation, also restricted the extent of future quarrying, he says. For example, a requirement for benching of the excavation pit, to prevent a collapse, meant space for excavations would shrink the deeper the quarry went.
The quarry is owned by Saddle Views Estate headed by director Calvin Fisher, but its operation had been leased to another company, Saddle Hill Quarries, for the past 10 years.
Early in June this year the lease to operate the quarry was picked up by the SOL Group, which took over on June 1 as part of a wider purchase of a related company, South Canterbury Screening and Crushing.
SOL Group has interests including SOL Quarries, based in Christchurch, with which former All Black captain, Richie McCaw, is closely identified.
The Saddle Hill Quarry, has been operating under existing use rights since a Court of Appeal ruling in April, which confirmed the original consent for the operation was no longer in force. The ruling ensured the protection of the landmark hill’s distinctive ridgeline, but left questions about the extent to which quarrying could continue under existing use
The council’s stance appeared to have shifted since April, when council chief executive Sue Bidrose indicated further talks were needed to clarify the quarry’s existing use rights.
“The onus is on them … to prove their existing use rights,” she said at the time.
Bidrose now says council staff have since met representatives from SOL Group and taken fresh legal advice.
She now says the “onus” is now on the quarry’s owner to make a case for any future expansion of the quarry.
“As long as he operates within the existing interim enforcement order, then he can continue to do what he is doing.”
One of the salient reasons this dispute has gone on for over 10 years is the fact that all the documentation relating to the quarrying rights on Saddle Hill were lost when the then controlling local authority, Taieri County Council, was absorbed by the Dunedin City Council. In the prolonged litigation produced by the dispute, courts at all levels have been obliged to rely on the memories of former employees of both councils.