The effort by Taranaki local authorities to streamline regulations for the region’s extractive industries has come too late for at least one small quarry owner. BY NEIL RITCHIE.
Late last year New Plymouth District Council general manager (strategy) Liam Hodgetts told an oil and gas conference in the city that the region’s four local authorities – the NPDC, Taranaki Regional Council, Stratford District Council and South Taranaki District Council – had agreed to “work together to improve the regulatory approach to oil and gas in the region”.
“This will have direct benefits for the industry by ensuring greater consistency in the planning process but also greater transparency for the community,” he said at the time.
More recently, New Plymouth District Council (NPDC) senior planning advisor Ralph Broad said the councils’ collaborative approach will also extend to the region’s other extractive industry, quarrying and mining.
“The New Plymouth District Council is this year reviewing its district plan and wants to streamline its several levels of bureaucracy,” he says. “This is to give more transparency, more certainty for those in its rural areas, be they farmers, so called ‘lifestylers’, oil and gas companies or quarry operators.”
The New Plymouth local authority is also moving from “an activity based plan” to “an effects based plan” and considering how such things as oil and gas exploration and production activities and quarrying operations affect rural communities.
“We need more uniformity, clearer buffer zones,” says Broad, referring to such things as dealing with hours of operation, traffic, noise, earthworks, the identification of waahi tapu sites, and other things common to both oil and gas and quarry sites.
“And rural lifestylers need to appreciate that a rural environment is also a productive environment, be that dairy farming, poultry farms, oil and gas well sites or production facilities or quarrying operations. It may not be the idyllic shifting from urban areas to country lifestyle blocks. environment they were looking for,” he adds, referring to people
Taranaki has over 30 quarrying operations from Uruti, north of New Plymouth, to Waverley-Waitotara, near the border of the South Taranaki and Wanganui District Councils.
Some are farmers operating small quarries on their farm land, others lease land from farmers, usually paying them a royalty per cubic metre of aggregate extracted, while a few operate beside protected rivers or near waahi tapu sites. Some operate under resource consents that are years old and when they come to renew existing consents or apply for new ones they may find the new regulations more stringent than the old ones, Broad cautions.
One such company is Cudby Contracting that owns two South Taranaki quarries, one at Whenuku Road and the former AB & DM Sybrandy Contracting quarry at Waiteika Road.
Owner Grant Cudby doesn’t think much of consenting regs in the region, and says he has had enough of government bureaucracy and is quitting his quarries, though not the industry.
“I’m just so over it … I’m having such a hard battle getting the necessary consents to extend my existing Whenuka Road quarry … and it’s not as if I’m opening a new one in the middle of town,” he told Q&M.
“The first time I applied for resource consents was bad enough and this second time is only for an extension.
“I’m actually selling up, if I can find somebody to buy my quarries … it’s just too hard for the small players now to continue; and we have not got the necessary resources or infrastructure.
“But I’m going to stay in the industry … going to work for the big boys hopefully.”
He finds the Taranaki Regional Council easier to deal with over the consenting than the STDC [South Taranaki District Council]. “They [the TRC] are pretty good really, realistic; I am reasonably happy with them, I can talk with them.”
Quarry industry patriarch Russell Vickers empathises and sympathises with Cudby and his consenting predicament.
He says he and his sons Kevin and Noddy, who run Vickers Quarries, had a hell of a time recently getting the resource consents necessary to expand the company’s main operation at York Road, Midhirst, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Stratford District Council (SDC).
“We’ve had closure hanging over our heads several times over the years and we’ve spent big sums of money to stay in business,” says Russell.
“We’ve had to limit noise levels, hours of operations per day and per week,” he adds, referring to the company’s Kawasaki 60×48 DT Jaw Crusher, one of the largest in the country.
“We even paid the legal costs of the objectors this time and were granted the necessary resource consents to expand our York Road operations primarily because we met all the conditions requested by the SDC.”
Russell welcomes the news that the region’s local authorities are moving to streamline their respective regulatory requirements.
“At present there is no uniformity in Taranaki, or even New Zealand, each [authority] implements and operates RMA [Resource Management Act] requirements on its own.”
Meanwhile, NPDC’s Ralph Broad cautions against small quarry owners quitting.
“Firstly, it’s very early days,” he says, referring to the local authorities collaborating on regulatory processes.
“And quarry owners, or the association,” he says, referring to the AQA, “should get deeply involved … airing their concerns.
“The way we handle quarries now is more detailed than years ago. We often require the reinstatement of overburden and some operators now have to pay a bond ensuring there will be sufficient money available for the reinstatement of the land they use.
“We also have to consider hours of operation, whether crushers need to be lined to reduce noise or bunds erected around a site, again to limit noise.”
Broad says the NPDC regulatory process is the “statutory minimum” but that early engagement with all parties concerned should make that process much smoother.
“Open and honest communications are a win-win situation for everybody concerned, the regulators, industries and rural communities.”