Port used quake law to expand

NO APOLOGIES: Lyttelton Port managed to reclaim 10 hectares under emergency laws instead of the 29ha it wanted.
NO APOLOGIES: Lyttelton Port managed to reclaim 10 hectares under emergency laws instead of the 29ha it wanted.

Lyttelton Port of Christchurch tried to use emergency quake laws to push through a 29-hectare expansion.

Documents obtained under the Official Information Act show the port company pushed the Government to fast-track consent for reclamation of 29ha of land using the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Act.

The proposed order-in-council would have allowed the port to use 3 million cubic metres of earthquake rubble to more than double the size of the existing coal yards, without going through the usual resource consent processes such as public hearings.

The company said allowing the reclamation would have "considerable benefit for Canterbury's recovery" and said the more modest 10ha plan eventually accepted by the Government was "not feasible", documents show.

In a briefing to Environment Minister Nick Smith on April 13, ministry officials said the proposed 29ha expansion was a "long-term objective" not "critical to earthquake recovery".

Officials also said the port had approached Earthquake Recovery Minister Gerry Brownlee directly seeking an order despite the responsibility lying with Smith.

The company obtained an order-in-council for 10ha of reclamation in May, which Environment Ministry officials believed would restore it to pre-quake capacity.

The reclamation work sparked criticism from the Lyttelton community, with some concerned that public consultation had been bypassed and the environment could suffer.

In private, the Environment Ministry also had concerns, with officials telling Smith on March 30 that earthquake waste being dumped in the harbour could be contaminated with asbestos or lead-based paint.

"Large-scale disposition of concrete is likely to alter pH levels and there are also concerns about dust and sedimentation."

Yesterday, port chief executive Peter Davie said he would make no apologies for attempting to push through the expansion plan, which would have provided the Government with a much-needed site to dump demolition waste from the crippled central city.

"Nobody knows how much rubble is going to come out."

Environment Ministry concerns around water contamination had been quickly resolved and all waste being used was sorted and clean, he said.

"Every truckload is being inspected. We are not going to go fouling up the harbour."

The documents also showed ministry officials were concerned about the port company's demand that the Christchurch City Council and Environment Canterbury be forced to issue resource consents within five days of the Government approval.

"This is extremely tight and it may be difficult for the councils to address any issues arising from the application."

Both councils and ministry officials felt at least 10 days was needed but this was overruled by Cabinet, which approved the five-day deadline.

The Press