No right to roads for logging trucks

Two Marlborough Sounds forestry companies' bid to truck logs out from Port Underwood to be processed at top-of-the-south mills has been thwarted by councillors refusing it permission to use council-administered roads.

New Zealand Forestland, which bought the Whataroa forest near Tumbledown Bay, and Aubade NZ, which has the cutting rights, applied to the Marlborough District Council to carry logs destined for the domestic market out of the area by truck, because a 1979 resource consent condition said that council-administered roads "were not to be used by vehicles associated with log extraction without the permission of council".

Public submissions were split, but there has been vocal opposition from Picton and Waikawa residents who did not want logging trucks on the roads.

The council's assets and services committee this week rejected the companies' application, saying they did not want logging trucks "trundling through the tourist town of Picton". Marlborough Sounds ward councillors argued the roads were difficult, narrow and windy.

There was more activity on the roads, particularly in Waikawa and Picton, and logging trucks did not fit with the tourist town future planned for Picton.

Four councillors voted against the application, and three voted for it to be given more consideration by a subcommittee, but that was turned down along with the companies' application.

It now goes to a full council meeting on February 27.

Assets and services committee chairman Terry Sloan said yesterday it would be interesting to see if the full council took a different view.

He said he thought the companies were a little naive in asking for the trucking rights, given the 1979 resource consent conditions, but said all was not lost yet for them. "You don't know till you ask, do you?"

New Zealand Forestland spokesman Angus Malcolm said yesterday the company did not wish to comment at this stage.

As part of the application, the companies had offered an agreed daily maximum of 10 laden trucks, controlled operating hours and a road maintenance fee to be paid to the council.

A voluntary accord between residents and the forest industry, which councillors were told had generally worked well, had enabled up to 10 daily loads of timber for domestic markets to be carried by road from Tumbledown Bay. Most export logs are carried out of the area by barge. But resource consent for the barge facility at Opua Bay expires next year and that transport is a more expensive option than road cartage for logs going to Blenheim or Nelson mills.

The forestry companies said 360,000 tonnes of logs could be milled in the Whataroa forest, with about 20 per cent of logs destined for domestic markets.