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HomeEast CoastControversial East Coast Barge Facility Misses Out on Fast-tracked Consent

Controversial East Coast Barge Facility Misses Out on Fast-tracked Consent

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The establishing of a controversial new barge facility in a small East Coast town has received a setback after failing to obtain a special government consent referral.

Since 2015, Te Rimu Trust has been trying to establish a marine facility in Te Araroa, two-and-a-half hours north of Gisborne.

The project’s primary purpose is to facilitate log transportation for the forestry industry through the establishment of a harbour which could receive 80-metre barges.

Those barges would carry the equivalent of 90 truckloads of logs at a time, which proponents say would go a long way towards protecting the fragile roading network and creating employment in the small town.

But Te Araroa Kāhui Kupenga Marine Access Facility has been criticised by Tuatara Group, a collective of ahi kā and long-term Te Araroa residents, who fear commercial interests have been placed above those of the community and environment.

About 200 people turned up to a September march protesting the facility.

In late May, Te Rimu Trust received news it had been unsuccessful in obtaining a fast-tracked referral to a consenting panel for decision under the Covid-19 Recovery (Fast-track Consenting) Act 2020 — a government shortcut for projects which have the potential to boost employment and economic recovery.

In his letter to the trust, Environment Minister David Parker said the project met part of the criteria by boosting employment but “may not promote sustainable management of natural and physical resources”.

Parker said it would be more appropriate for the project to go through the standard consenting process under the Resource Management Act.

Speaking to Local Democracy Reporting, Te Rimu Trust chairman Richard Clarke said it had taken the government nine months to reach a decision, but he was still confident the group could get the project across the line.

“You look at the ministerial review committee (Ministerial Inquiry into Land Use); three commissioners have gone out and interviewed people and they recommend that this go ahead,” he said. “I see some resilience for the area, looking at opportunities from aquaculture to processed products.”

Building the facility would provide jobs for 40 people in an area where employment was increasingly hard to come by, he said.

The trust was now talking to local authorities and the government to figure out which avenue to take next, but Clarke indicated the matter would likely wind up in the Environment Court.

Te Whanau a Hinerupe hapū member and Hinerupe Marae trustee Kararaina Ngatai-Melbourne says while some people in Te Araroa support the barge facility, there is also a lot of opposition.

Te Whanau a Hinerupe hapū member and Hinerupe Marae trustee Kararaina Ngatai-Melbourne says while some people in Te Araroa support the barge facility, there is also a lot of opposition. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Meanwhile, Tuatara Group representative Kararaina Ngatai-Melbourne said those in opposition to the project were “elated” by the news the referral hadn’t gone through.

“That’s pretty awesome news for us up here – cause for celebration,” she said.

The name Tuatara was chosen because it had significance to tipuna Hinerupe, who was gifted the land and waters within the site of the proposed barge facility, Ngatai-Melbourne said.

She believed it would have looked bad for the government to sign-off on the referral because of the Ngā Rohe Moana o Ngā Hapū o Ngāti Porou Act 2019, which was created to give mana to ngā hapū o Ngāti Porou in relation to water.

The facility was endorsed by the Ministerial Inquiry into Land Use, which listed the project as one capable of boosting resilience in a region struggling with infrastructure.

The panel recommended in its May report that the government consider the referral for fast-track consent, which would provide “an alternative to the unreliable State Highway 35 and limited airstrips and helipads across the rohe”.

Ngatai-Melbourne said inquiry panel chair Hekia Parata was set to visit the seaside community on 19 June to further discuss the marine facility.

“She knows our stance, that we’re very much still against it,” Ngatai-Melbourne said.

“That particular section of her recommendation has nothing to do with other people, it’s to do with us. We are the hapū that should be having those conversations, not anyone else.”

In April, logistics consultant Ray Mudgeway said Te Rimu Trust was “getting close” to launching the project.

A business case had been completed along with environmental reports, and there was a possibility construction could start later in the year, he said.

In 2020, Gisborne District Council rejected the trust’s proposal for the facility and declined its inclusion in the Tai Rāwhiti 2050 Strategy.

Following that, then-Infrastructure minister Shane Jones approved in principle a deal to fund the project with $45m of government funds.

Te Rimu Trust is hoping a fast-track consent will speed up the creation of the pictured barge facility in Te Araroa.

Te Rimu Trust is hoping a fast-track consent will speed up the creation of the pictured barge facility in Te Araroa. Photo: Supplied / LDR

Up to $2.8m was allocated to fund feasibility, design, costing and consent work for the barging wharf proposal.

Minister David Parker’s May letter said the facility included an excavated mooring basin, facilities for public recreation (including water sports), a dredged access channel, two breakwaters, boat ramp, boat moorings, rescue centre building, harbour control building, public toilet, parking, hardstand areas and wetland restoration.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.Te Araroa community call for end to barge plan as new designs releasedControversial East Coast barge facility ‘getting close’East Coast barging facility opposed by local hapū‘Stop the barge’: Outcry over proposal for East Coast barging facilityTolaga Bay forestry waste inquiry: ‘It’s not just a mess, it’s dangerous’

Source: rnz

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