Environment Waikato and Matamata Piako District Council have turned down an application to expand a Waihou chicken broiler farm.
The applicants, Clement and Karen Aitchison, had applied for land use and air discharge consents to expand their chicken broiler facility on State Highway 26, Te Aroha to three sheds containing approximately 100,000 birds. A broiler unit has operated on the property since 1983.
The application attracted eight submissions to the District Council and 11 to Environment Waikato.
The applicant said the effects of an expanded operation would be no more than minor. The new sheds would be built to industry specifications, and measures would be implemented to ensure that the expanded operation did not affect neighbours, including additional screen plantings.
Submitters were concerned about the size of proposed sheds and that the operation would significantly increase nuisance odour effects. They were also concerned about the lack of established screening on the property and the low lying nature of the site. Further expansion of the broiler farm was incompatible with existing and future land uses in the area, they said.
Additional planting would not adequately control a significant increase in shed air emissions and the effects of forced ventilation and noise of more fans operating were also a concern. The proposal was inconsistent with the changing land use of the locality and would have a significant effect on air quality, they said.
Matamata-Piako District Council representative Marius Rademeyer said that because of the closeness of neighbours the proposal was unlikely to meet the odour, dust and noise standards of the proposed plan. A precautionary approach should be adopted and the consent declined.
Environment Waikato representative Hugh Keane also recommended a precautionary approach because of the closeness of neighbours. There was uncertainly that air emissions from two large sheds could be adequately controlled, and the air discharge consent should be declined, he said.
The Committee said it recognised the proposal would provide a better income for the applicant and that the current 16,000 birds was a small-scale operation in current industry developments. There was no history of formal odour or dust complaints since the applicant began operating the site and the applicant could be considered a good operator.
However an increase from 16,000 to almost 100,000 birds was a significant increase. The proposal also represented a significant investment for the applicant and there was a need to ‘get it right’ to safeguard existing air quality. There was a need to balance what the applicant wished to achieve with a responsibility to ensure that neighbours were not exposed to unacceptable noise, odour and dust effects.
The Committee could not be certain that odour and dust effects could be kept at non objectionable levels at all times beyond the property boundary and agreed with staff recommendations that a precautionary approach be adopted.
The consents were declined because separation distances between the sheds and nearby dwellings were not sufficient to ensure the facility could operate without adverse effects on neighbours. Potential adverse effects on neighbours could not adequately be avoided, remedied or mitigated, the proposal was not compatible with District Plans and was unlikely to meet performance standards for odour, dust and noise.