Debris to be dumped in ocean to fast-track Kaikoura road repairs video

Rockfall on State Highway 1 after the Kaikoura earthquake.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Rockfall on State Highway 1 after the Kaikoura earthquake.

Debris from landslides blocking the South Island's main highway is to be dumped into the ocean to fast-track Kaikoura road repairs.

State Highway 1 was crippled by the 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which brought down thousands of tonnes of debris, cutting off Kaikoura and posing a massive challenge to road workers.

Because of the number and scale of the slips, removing debris from the sites would be difficult and with time of the essence the Government has moved to speed things up.

Three pieces of legislation were being presented to Parliament this week, including the Hurunui/Kaikoura Earthquakes Recovery (Emergency Relief) Bill 2016.

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Acting Civil Defence Minister Gerry Brownlee said on Tuesday the bill would extend the timeframe for which someone could give notice or apply for retrospective consent for emergency works under the Resource Management Act (RMA).

"The bill also proposes a number of legislative changes to allow for the restoration of Kaikoura harbours," he said.

"It's essential that access from the sea is restored so dredging, and other necessary work, will become controlled activities under the Regional Coastal Plan."

Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray said he was pleased the Government was pushing through the legislation, as it would help clear the roads and restore access to the stranded town.

"It means we can get on to that without carting the material off, it would take months, absolute months and months, particularly to the north," he told TVNZ.

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"We treasure our environment, we lead the charge on environmental issues, but, you know, there are exceptional circumstances so we need to act and get things fixed up, so we can get on with life really."

The Green Party had expressed concerns about where the material would be dumped, with co-leader James Shaw telling TVNZ it was not about the lowest cost option.

"We are concerned about dumping rubble in the ocean, but it's a matter of choosing the best location for that, not necessarily the lowest cost option."

Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith said the location where debris was dumped would have to be chosen carefully, as it could disrupt marine life in the tidal zone, but stressed the need for urgency.

"The purpose of the legislation is not to disrupt the environment, it's to short-circuit the normal [Resource Management Act] process of notifications which take a lot of time," he said.

"If you do that it'll take us forever to get on to the roads, in six months time we'll still be talking about getting ready to start the process."

The first of the three bills to be passed in Parliament was the Civil Defence Emergency Management Amendment Act 2016 Amendment Bill, which went through all stages of the House on Tuesday.

The Hurunui/Kaikoura Earthquakes Recovery Emergency Relief Bill 2016 was introduced the same day and would come back to the House on Thursday after a one-day select committee stage.

The final bill, the Hurunui/Kaikoura Earthquakes Recovery Bill 2016, would be introduced to the House on Thursday.

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 - The Marlborough Express

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