A milk tanker parked outside a Palmerston North hotel marked the start of a three-day hearing into Fonterra's $200 million plant expansion plans.
A three-person hearing committee sitting on behalf of the Horizons Regional Council and the Tararua District Council heard eight hours of submissions at the Kingsgate Hotel conference room yesterday.
The dairy giant has applied for a 35-year resource consent for a multimillion-dollar milk-drying plant it wants to build in Pahiatua.
The proposal asks for allowances from the district council to build a tower taller than the district's 40-metre restriction, to exceed noise limits, to build a wastewater treatment pond 150 metres from a residential dwelling and to dispose of waste over and above the District Plan's 200 cubic metres limit.
It also asks for allowances from the regional council to discharge wastewater on four farms, put stormwater from the plant's roof into the nearby Pukemiku Stream and to discharge contaminants into the air.
On day one the company's environmental manager, site operations manager and specialists from Fonterra's co-operative group on air, traffic, wastewater, stormwater, groundwater, surface water, ecology, economics, nutrients, planning and soil voiced their views.
Site operations manager Bill Boakes said the company's plans to build a third tower in Tararua would have benefits for the entire district. It should create 45 fulltime jobs at the plant, as well as some part-time positions during the construction phase, he said.
Experience from similar projects, such as a drier development in Darfield near Christchurch, showed more than $1.5 million was injected into the community during the construction phase alone and this excluded money spent on labour costs, food and accommodation, Mr Boakes said.
"I've worked in the Pahiatua community for the last nine years and have seen many of the economic benefits the site brings.
"This development will provide a major stimulus to this rural community. Fonterra has been a good neighbour."
Fonterra's environment manager, Ian Goldschmidt, said the environmental effects of the proposed development were no more than minor.
The plant's discharge would be tightly controlled and emissions limits met.
"This investment will see several significant improvements to the environment as a result of the proposal."
The application is being heard by independent commissioners Christine Foster, Peter Callender and Darrell Statham.
Today the public submissions stage has eight speakers raising points both for and against the proposed plant expansion.
- Manawatu Standard