There’s a quarry in the hillside of the picturesque Waitawheta Valley.
Residents are accustomed to its operations, which have been managed by HG Leach since the late 60s, but the proposal of an adjacent second quarry – one that would take the place of 113 hectares of farmland – has started to raise concerns.
“They’ve brought the fight over to our side now,” one local said.
Environmental repercussions, lowering property values, as well as noise and visual impacts, are a few reasons why a group of Waitawheta residents are wanting to spread the word about the proposal, which is yet to have a resource consent application lodged with Hauraki District Council.
They want to make sure that when an application has been submitted, council will make it publicly notifiable, meaning the proposal would be open for submissions by all.
“There’s about 30 people [concerned], and I think the majority of those people have already said something to council… and we’re only just getting started,” Steve Erickson said.
“There’s just no need to come over here when there’s still rock over there,” Llyod Mercer added.
Steve and Lloyd are both long-term residents of the Waitawheta Valley. Lloyd – who was a previous employee at the Waitawheta quarry – has a property which will overlook the new site.
Not only do they fear the new quarry on Spence Rd – which adjoins the Waitawheta River – will lower property values, but they are concerned that there is a Significant Natural Area [SNA] on the proposed site, “as well as many rare species of plants and animals”.
“They haven’t thought it through,” Steve said. “We want to protect this place because we’ve got a beautiful spot here.”
HG Leach chief operating officer Mark Baillie said the company’s application for the new quarry, south-west of Waihī, avoided the SNA on the proposed site.
It has sought advice from “a number of technical experts” in relation to the development of the quarry, he said.
“The resource is not something that we can control the location of; however, we have been mindful of the environment throughout the design process.”
In a letter sent to residents within 1km of the proposed site, HG Leach said its Spence Rd quarry would be designed to ensure compliance with Hauraki District Council’s noise standards. It would operate between Monday-Saturday, 6am to 6pm, and Sunday, 7am-1pm.
The company is also proposing to undertake “screen planting” to reduce the visual impact of the quarry from nearby Franklin and Hume Rds.
Mark said HG Leach was not able to confirm the extent of the resource remaining in the existing quarry, and that the Spence Rd proposal was “more economically viable in comparison”.
He said the company took “the wellbeing of the community seriously”.
“At a local Waihī level, the Spence Rd quarry will service the local aggregate market, helping to contain input costs across the construction sector. In addition, the quarry will minimise overall costs associated with transporting aggregate to the Tauranga and Coromandel markets.
“It is important to retain the quarrying activity in the local economy, keeping the jobs locally and supporting other businesses in the economy.”
A Hauraki District Council spokesperson confirmed the presence of a Significant Natural Area on the Spence Rd farmland and said it was aware of HG Leach’s proposal to establish a second quarry there.
They said no resource consent application had yet been received by council.
Once a completed application had been received, an assessment would be carried out to determine which processing path was required to be followed – non notified, limited notified (to specific potentially affected parties) or public notification (open for submissions by all).
If limited, or fully notified, a hearing would be held to consider the application and any submissions received, and to make a decision on the proposal.
“One big concern is that councils have the ability to make a consent for the quarry non-notifiable. This should not be allowed,” Steve said.
“We’re outraged, really, that [HG Leach] would even consider this, so we want to be sure it’s publicly notified and the council doesn’t just push it through, that’s our emphasis for now.”
BY KELLEY TANTAU