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Published: 2013-10-16 00:00:00

Joint release from Waikato District Council and Waikato Regional Council
A joint Waikato District Council and Waikato Regional Council hearings committee has approved the issuing of consents to a Fonterra subsidiary for an open cast coal mine at Mangatangi, 2.5 kilometres east of Mangatawhiri, in north Waikato.

The consents have been granted to Glencoal Energy Limited subject to conditions designed to address a range of environmental and health concerns.

The committee heard from a number of submitters concerned about the potential impacts of the proposed Mangatangi Opencast Mine on the local community and the environment.

However, the commissioners said in their decision that the adverse effects of the mine on the environment would be minor given the conditions imposed.

The commissioners also said the application was consistent with relevant planning documents and it would promote the sustainable management purpose of the Resource Management Act.

The committee was made up of chair David Hill (appointed by both councils), Dr Jim Cooke (appointed by the regional council) and Maxine Moana-Tuwhangai (appointed by the Waikato River Authority).

Glencoal’s planned mine operation would be over a total of 76 hectares and involve eight years of coal extraction, the commissioners’ decision said.

Issues raised by submitters on the proposal included: potential for respiratory problems in local people due to dust; risks related to noise and traffic; and adverse effects on waterways downstream of the mine.

The commissioners found that while health risks raised were a genuine concern, they were over-stated, and conditions can be put in place to mitigate dust effects.

Furthermore, reasonable noise limits would not be exceeded and it was unnecessary to restrict the direction of coal haulage traffic, the commissioners said. They were also satisfied the mine would not have significant adverse effects on the Waikato River.

After the mining is finished, most of the land used for the mine will be returned to pastoral farming, while a 13 hectare lake will also be formed, the decision said.

The land use consent granted by Waikato District Council relates to “mineral extraction and processing, associated with the development, operation and closure of an opencast coal mine, and associated ancillary activities”.

The regional council consents relate to a wide range of activities including earthworks, vegetation clearance, establishment of bores, water discharges, and surface and groundwater use.

The commissioners noted in their decision that they were not able to have regard to any arguments about the effects on climate change of using coal.

This position was confirmed by the Supreme Court last month when it found that “it is not open to territorial authorities and regional councils to regulate activities by reference to the effect on climate change of discharges of greenhouse gases which result indirectly from such activities”.