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Published: 2004-06-08 00:00:00

Environment Waikato and Thames Coromandel District Council have granted resource consents for a lumber company to develop a new sawmill in the Coromandel.

Blue Mountain Lumber had applied to the District Council for land use consent to develop and operate a sawmill, including antisapstain treatment, at Te Rerenga on the Coromandel Peninsula. A total of 160 submissions were lodged with the District Council, 12 in support, three neutral and 145 in opposition.

The company applied to Environment Waikato to discharge contaminants to air, to divert tributaries and drain part of the lower flood plain of the Awaroa Stream and Opitonui River and to discharge sewage, stormwater and soil.

Environment Waikato received 181 submissions, 16 in support, two neutral and 163 in opposition. Submitters included the Whangapoua Environmental Protection Society, Tairua Environmental Society, Matarangi Beach Estates, Whangapoua Beach Ratepayers Society, Whangapoua Harbourcare, Coromandel/Colville Community Board, Forest and Bird Society, Papatuanuku Environmental Trust and many individuals.

The company has purchased a 182 ha property that currently operates as a dairy farm. It wants to use about 10 ha for the sawmill, with the rest continuing to be farmed.

It expects to process approximately 200,000 cubic metres of logs each year and employ around 40 people working a single shift. The proposal includes a logyard, sawmill and planer mill building, timber drying kilns, antisapstain treatment, sawmill yard, wood waste energy centre, car park and offices.

Stormwater runoff would be directed to a holding pond and irrigated onto nearby forested land. Sawdust and shavings would be burned in the wood waste burner with emissions discharged through a 30-metre stack after passing through a multi-cyclone to remove particulate.

Submitters were concerned that a sawmill of the size proposed was not appropriate for the location, was not consistent with the District Plan and would not fit in with the existing rural/coastal environment. The potential for adverse cumulative effects on the Whangapoua Harbour meant that a precautionary approach should be followed and the applications declined, they said.

They were also concerned about increased traffic, effects on water quality, increased treatment processes, effects on air quality and effects on tourism. They believed that the view of Castle Rock could be affected by emissions from the boiler stack and inclusion of a large industrial complex within a natural landscape.

Environment Waikato scientist Bill Vant said other sources of sediment would far outweigh what might come from the proposed sawmill site and that the likelihood of adverse effects was slight.

The Councils both granted the consents, saying proposed activities would have only minor adverse effects on the environment and, subject to conditions, the proposal was not contrary to any plans and was consistent with the Resource Management Act.

District Council Commissioner P Cooney said the proposal had generated a great deal of public interest. He had considered the application in the context that the area had high natural value but believed the sawmill could operate without causing any significant adverse effects on the natural environment or the amenity value of the area, subject to appropriate conditions that would avoid or lessen effects.

Environment Waikato said if the sawmill was properly managed and complied with conditions the effects on water quality would be minor, both for the ecology of streams and water supplies. The importance of the harbour and potential effects had been considered carefully, but it did not consider the evidence indicated there was any credible risk from the sawmill if it operated within its consent conditions.