Valley kicking up stink over site

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 07:44 03/01/2014
Paul Higgs
Emma Allen

Not this side: Allan Lane, Paul Higgs, Karen Higgs and Vicki Lane don’t want a composting business to move across the road close to their homes

Renwick Stockfoods & Supplies
Emma Allen
Renwick Stockfoods & Supplies Ltd current premises.

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A group of Waihopai Valley residents are unhappy about plans for a composting business to move closer to their homes.

Renwick Stockfoods & Supplies Ltd has applied to move its composting business from one side of Waihopai Valley Rd to the other side, to a property on the corner of Waihopai Valley Rd and Shandon Rd.

The residents are concerned the industrial operation close to their homes will cause smell, noise and dust problems and be a safety risk because the proposed site is flood-prone.

The entrance for the new site is also the school bus stop, and parents and grandparents are concerned about the risk to the children.

The company had asked the council to process its application without it being publicly notified, but residents said they wanted it to go to a public hearing so everyone could have their say.

Renwick Stockfoods & Supplies owner Ian Higgins said the new site would compost up to 1200 tonnes of grape marc (stalks and skins from crushing) with bark during the annual vintage and chipped mussel shells from Sanfords in Havelock.

This was a permissible activity under the district plan, which was why the company wanted the application treated as non-notified.

Managed properly, a composting business would have only minor effects on neighbours, Mr Higgins said.

Allan Lane and Paul Higgs, concerned residents, said yesterday the existing composting business was about 2km from their homes.

"It's not an ideal thing to have but at that distance it's not causing anyone grave concern," Mr Lane said.

"The proposed new site is going to be 120 metres from a neighbour's house and he'll be 75m from the road the trucks will use. I'm 300m from it, and I think that's too close."

However, the greatest concern was flooding, he said.

The proposed site regularly flooded with the whole property completely underwater.

"It's not in grapes because it's at high risk of flooding," he said. "It regularly floods, which is why the land is cheap and no-one is doing anything with it but graze horses."

The vineyard directly downstream from the land that he manages had water flowing through 56 rows of vines during the 2008 flood. If that happened after Renwick Stockfoods had relocated, the compost would be swept onto the vineyard.

One of the channels through the land is Gibson Creek, which flows down to Renwick and into the Wairau River.

Some of those concerns appeared to be shared by council staff, who said in an email attached to a request to Mr Higgins for more information that it would be a difficult site for the operation.

Mr Higgins said his company had looked for a long time for sites but none were available. The risks could be managed, he said.

The compost piles would be laid on clay beds to prevent leaching, and the area would be landscaped to screen the piles.

The company was very aware of the school bus stop, and the trucks came in slowly and stopped before entering the site.

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This was less risky for children at the bus stop than the many logging trucks going past at 80 to 90kmh, he said.

"I've got grandchildren catching school buses, so I know. We're a pretty responsible company when it comes to that sort of thing. My guys are pretty good, and they will be told in no uncertain terms that if there is any sign of kids waiting there, they have to go at a crawl."

An incident last month where a nearby vineyard spread rotten marc would have "wound up" the residents against composting, Mr Higgins said.

"It stank. I could smell it at my place."

His compost would be mixed properly, and there would be no smell, he said.

Even when mussel shells were added, it would be managed.

"We mix it six to eight times . . . we've got it ready in three to four months, ready to go back on to vineyards as beautiful compost. It's a totally different thing."

He lived on the existing site, and would move to the new site and would know immediately if there was any smell, he said.

- The Marlborough Express

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