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Featherston Quarry: ‘I didn’t sign up for this’

The site of the quarry on Underhill Rd, Featherston. PHOTO/GRACE PRIOR

Consent delivers crushing blow
SWDC grants consent for Quarry without notifying all of the nearby properties

South Wairarapa District Council has granted consent to aggregate storage and crushing at a Featherston quarry.

But the decision to do so, without public or limited notification, has “bewildered” some residents neighbouring the site who believe they will be negatively impacted by the decision and did not give their approval to the proposal.

The council says all parties that it deemed to be affected by the proposal had given their approval.

A council spokesperson said an external planner from Boffa Miskell had assessed the resource consent application by PJ Warren Earthmoving on behalf of the council and recommended that the resource consent application did not need to be publicly notified.

“They found that all parties affected by the proposal under the requirements of the Resource Management Act have given their written approval to the proposal,” the council spokesperson said.

The PJ Warren Earthmoving quarry gained consent to extract aggregate in rural Featherston from Greater Wellington Regional Council [GWRC] in August 2020.

Effects on the natural environment, including water quality, are the responsibility of GWRC and were addressed in that consent.

At the time, some residents felt blindsided by GWRC’s decision to approve the quarry without notification.

South Wairarapa District Council [SWDC] received a resource consent application in October 2020, but the application was put on hold while the council received further information it needed on the proposal.

On Friday, SWDC confirmed it had granted the consent without notification and that affected residents had given their approval.

But Penelope Bovaird-Walker who lives directly opposite the site on Algies Rd said she had never signed or given written approval to the proposal or any matters relating to it.

Hers is one of seven properties identified as being the closest dwellings to the aggregate crushing site in a noise assessment done by Marshall Day Acoustics in April last year, obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act [LGOIMA].

Bovaird-Walker was “bewildered” by the council’s statement that all parties affected by the proposal and any noise effects had given their written approval.

Her main quarrel with the quarry came down to issues of safety, noise, and roads being damaged by the trucks.

Sharon Garrett, whose property is also identified in the noise assessment as being close to the site, had not given her approval to the proposal either.

“When we bought our home we had to accept that there would be noise and smells consistent with farming.

“We were not told there would be quarrying or rock crushing and stockpiling of rock products.”

Featherston residents Alex and Kirsten Ball live 60 metres back from the unsealed section of Underhill Rd which leads to the quarry.

They said the sound from trucks going over potholes was “incredibly loud” and in dry conditions, “they produce a huge dust plume that completely envelops our house.

“Because of our location, we are arguably the party most affected by the quarry.

“Despite this, we were not considered an affected party.”

When considering whether to notify an application for resource consent a consent authority has three options: non-notification, limited notification, or public notification.

A consent authority must publicly notify an application if it decides that the proposal will, or is likely to have adverse effects on the environment that are more than minor.

When making the assessment for public notification, the consent authority must disregard effects on people who own or occupy adjacent land.

This is because the effects of a proposal on adjacent owners or occupiers are addressed through a process of limited notification.

The council did not go down the route of limited notification, however, and instead granted the resource consent because it had written approval by residents it deemed to be affected in specialist reports.

“There are three adjoining properties,” a council spokesperson said.

“However, because the owners of these properties all gave their written approval, they were no longer considered affected parties in the RMA assessment,” a council spokesperson said.

“An assessment was also done on wider effects of the noise by an external consultant planner.

“They looked at five other properties and concluded they were not adversely affected – taking into account noise, vibration, visual, and amenity effect, dust, and traffic.”

When asked who decided which parties were deemed affected by the reports, the council said the final decision was made by council officers, based on the professional expert assessments provided, and on Boffa Miskell’s report.

Miriam and John Williams, who live on Algies Rd said their property was in “direct line of sight and hearing” of the quarry.

“My husband and I did not give consent for the crusher or quarry at any time to anyone, and were not approached by PJ Warren to give consent despite our close proximity to the proposed crusher,” Miriam said.

It is understood some Featherston residents back the aggregate operation and say it will bring many benefits to their district.

There is a shortage of aggregate locally and nationwide.

Residents see this as an opportunity for a company to step up and produce cost-effective high-quality products for the market.

Featherston ward councillors said elected members were not involved in consenting decisions as it was an operational matter.

The application to South Wairarapa District Council sought consent to authorise soil stripping, aggregate extraction, and processing, including stockpiling and aggregate crushing.

It also sought to authorise noise levels of up to 55dB LA10 at any notional boundary between the hours of 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday.

The peer review of the noise assessment by Styles Group, released under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act [LGOIMA] stated that the noise of the quarry would be the “dominant and constant noise source in the environment while it is operating”.

When material is being transported from the site, it would be at a rate of from 22 to 44 truck movements a day and on occasion up to 68 to 100 truck movements at times of peak demands.

The two traffic reports for the development did not identify any major concerns with the work other than to point out that the narrowness of the road will make it difficult for two trucks to pass, documents released under the LGOIMA stated.

Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency raised concerns relating to the state highway, but the increase in traffic movements was considered to be “less than minor”.

In granting a resource consent, South Wairarapa District Council considered traffic, noise and vibration, dust and other effects.

There are 24 conditions imposed on the consent, including limiting truck movements to weekday, daytime hours.

Other conditions required the consent holder to actively manage dust so it does not cause nuisance beyond the site’s boundaries.

The council also commissioned an independent consultant to peer review the consent holder’s acoustics report.

“Testing found that the noise did not exceed the permitted rural zone standards beyond the area identified and the report also found that the noise level was appropriate for the rural character of the environment and primary production,” the council spokesperson said.— NZLDR

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