Chloe Ranford Local Democracy Reporter

Council solid waste manager Alec McNeil says what the service might looked like would be clearer after the review process. File photo.

Wheelie bins proposal back from the brink

Wheelie bins are back on the table in Marlborough, with a waste review calling them an “ideal” solution to “inconvenient” bin bags and crates.

Marlborough District Council has been deliberating over wheelie bins for more than a decade, with the cost of rolling out close to 40,000 bins – two per household – a regular sticking point.

A look at council services in 2009 and 2010 ended up settling on recycling crates and a new resource recovery centre.

The idea was debated again in 2015, but shelved, then rehashed in 2017 after a survey of 5400 residents showed 39 per cent wanted the bins to replace their bags and crates.

Council concluded the price was too much for residents.

But another waste assessment compiled earlier this year could see them get over the line.

It showed residents believed the current system was “inconvenient” and had “outlived its useful purpose”, with wheelie bins the “ideal practical resolution”.

Some thought their recycling crates were too small for the amounts recycled, with some admitting their “excess” goods were put into bin bags, “lost to landfill for ease of disposal”.

Others pointed out that new housing developments in Blenheim and Picton had caused rubbish collection routes to grow, leaving recycling crates in the wind and rain longer.

Rain-soaked paper or cardboard could not be recycled, and recycling blown from the crates often became street litter.

“Recycling left beside the container is not removed by the contractor. People without access to transport cannot take excess product to the recycling centre,” feedback in the waste assessment says.

Residents also say the council-issued bin bags suited small households, not bigger ones, and should be biodegradable.

The assessment estimated it would cost $2 million to send out about 36,000 refuse and recycling bins in Marlborough.

Speaking after the assessment was adopted by council last week, council solid waste manager Alec McNeil says the $2m was a “best estimate”, which could change.

Whether wheelie bins meant higher rates depended on several factors, including rubbish volumes and the number of properties signed up to the service, he says.

There was also talk of a waste collection service involving boats for residents living in remote parts of the Marlborough Sounds.

Alex says what the service could look like would be worked out during the waste management plan process.

It also recommended councils were incentivised to collect food waste for composting, collect glass separately to other recyclables, and do more promotion to get people to sort their waste correctly.

About 4370 tonnes of waste was recycled in Marlborough last year, compared to 7615 tonnes sent to landfill.

Residents could submit feedback on the assessment’s proposals on the council website before November 16.

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Mechanical compliance coordinator Duncan Jarvie oversees the heating systems at both Wairau and Nelson Hospitals. Photo: File.

Smart heating solution to smelly problem

Wairau Hospital water heaters could use gas generated from landfill to help cut carbon emissions.

Marlborough District Council are looking at ways to help slash greenhouse gases from Bluegums landfill on Taylor Pass Road.

While methane is currently burnt off, it could help power the hospital boilers instead.

An independent study showed using the gas would help the hospital reduce its carbon emissions.

Council solid waste manager Alec McNeil says council and Nelson Marlborough District Health Board and were currently discussing its findings.

The move comes as the DHB look at replacing Wairau Hospital’s aging boilers.

“They [the Wairau Hospital] are at a crucial capital replacement junction.

“They know the current system has maybe 18 to 24 months of life left. But once they make a replacement, that’s them locked in for 10, 20 years,” Alec says.

The hospital averaged about 1000 tonnes of coal burnt a year over the last eight years.

Connecting the landfill and hospital sites would see council lay 4.1 kilometres of pipes, costing between $1m and $1.5m.

Once down, the system would cost $20,000 a year to manage.

The council would charge the hospital for the gas to help cover the cost of supplying it.

A charge rate had not yet been sized up, but the council was not looking for a “profit centre”.

Nelson Marlborough Health finance performance and facilities general manager Eric Sinclair says the board was considering a range of options to replace Wairau Hospital’s coal-fired boilers, including the council’s landfill gas option.

Landfill gas was already used to power a boiler at Nelson Hospital, which turned it into building heating and hot water.

“The collection and destruction of the landfill gas reduces the amount of more harmful gases from being released from the landfill into the atmosphere and the smell normally associated with landfill,” says Eric.

The landfill generated about 1.4 million cubic metres of methane a year and can provide enough gas for up to another 30 years, even if it closed tomorrow.

Bluegums Landfill is expected to take rubbish until 2054.

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Council parks and open spaces manager Jane Tito says the council wanted to provide a “safer option” in Ward. Photo: Chloe Ranford/LDR.

Freedom camper money making plans amuse

Rural township residents are laughing off suggestions a new freedom camping site will bring in money.

About 30 Ward residents burst into laughter at a meeting last week after a Marlborough District Council staffer suggested freedom campers’ cash would benefit the town.

Ward is one of three new sites proposed under the council’s draft freedom camping bylaw.

But despite overwhelming opposition for the site, Ward farmer John Hickman took a one-man stand at the meeting.

John had earlier emailed members of local community group, the Flaxbourne Settlers Association, calling for residents not to “throw up barriers.”

“I just want everyone to keep an open mind,” he says.

But local mechanic Mike Hole says he objected to his taxes funding other people’s holidays.

The proposed campsite was located by a creek damage during the 2016 quake and which flooded in extreme weather, he says.

Council released its draft bylaw earlier this month, which included a Marlborough-wide ban on freedom campers that were not self-contained.

The bylaw would restrict freedom camping in Blenheim, Renwick and Picton to designated sites.

But in Ward, campers would still be allowed to park up anywhere. Rai Valley was the same.

Council parks and open spaces manager Jane Tito says the council wanted to provide a “safer option” in Ward, instead of having campers parked along the state highway.

Council staffers advised they were not documenting people’s opinions and asked the meeting’s attendees to submit on the proposed bylaw before the deadline of September 7, at 5pm.

It was recommended residents outline where they felt freedom camping should be banned in Ward, while Kaikōura MP, National’s Stuart Smith, suggested the community put forward an alternative site.

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Marlborough District Council is looking at banning non-self-contained vehicles from its freedom camping sites. Photo: Chloe Ranford/LDR

Freedom camping challenge could face legal threat

Marlborough council may face legal challenges in their bid to ban freedom campers in vehicles that are not self-contained.

Council staff want to ban vehicles without toilets from its freedom camping sites under a draft bylaw, released last week.

The bylaw was sparked by ongoing concerns that freedom campers were using Marlborough’s green patches as a toilet.

But at a public meeting in Renwick last week, council’s parks and open spaces planner Linda Craighead said the ban was not straightforward.

The council anticipated legal challengers she says.

“As with a lot of legal matters, there are some lawyers who feel we can ban non-self-contained units, and some lawyers who think we can’t.

“We’re going to have a go and see how we do,” she says.

Speaking after the meeting, Linda said the Freedom Camping Act, which guided the bylaw review, said councils “must not absolutely prohibit freedom camping” in their regions.

“Some believe that if you make freedom camping self-contained only, you’re prohibiting freedom camping for a number of people in the community, which goes against the act,” she says.

“Others argue that you’re still making provision for freedom camping, just that it’s restricted to self-contained. We already do other restrictions like limiting the number of vehicles at a site.”

To receive a self-containment certification, vehicles must have a toilet, portable or fixed, which must be able to be used inside a campervan with “sufficient head and elbow room”.

Under the bylaw, non-self-contained campers could be fined up to $200 by the council’s freedom camping enforcement officers.

This was in line with neighbouring Nelson City Council’s bylaw.

The council was aware of some individuals or organisations who might challenge their draft bylaw, but Linda says challengers had to submit on the bylaw then take their case to the High Court.

One attendee says he was concerned campers would not use their toilets, even if their vehicle was certified as self-contained.

“I hear stories of these people hiring campervan rentals.

“There are companies that put a seal over the toilets in the van. These cheeky companies are saying; ‘If you don’t break the seal to use that toilet, we will give you that bond back’. It’s wrong,” he says.

The bylaw says it is an offence to improperly dispose of waste.

Linda says infringement notices were “challenging” as the act prevented the council from fining more than $200. If the camper challenged the fine, it was not worth the costs of going to court.

A freedom camping report written by an independent expert earlier this year says the council’s approach of ‘educating first’, rather than fining, has led to a lower infringement tally than other regions. Last summer, the council issued seven fines, while Nelson issued 245 and Queenstown issued just under 2500.

An audience member asked how the council would manage homeless people who did not have toilets in their vehicles.

Linda says officers would contact relevant services.

The bylaw proposed no changes to the Renwick Domain camp site, which allowed up to 10 campers between 6pm and 9am.

Submissions on the bylaw would close on September 7 at 5pm.

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Marlborough District Council is proposing a controversial freedom camping site in Koromiko close under a new bylaw. Photo: Supplied/Marlborough Express.

Carry on Freedom camping?

Council bosses are looking for feedback on freedom camping as they look to review their freedom camping bylaw.

A month-long consultation process is underway, and the public are encouraged to have their say.

Parks and open spaces manager Jane Tito says now is the time for the community to be heard.

“We know freedom camping is a challenging issue in Marlborough and New Zealand.

“Following last year’s Annual Plan process, and in consideration of the submissions and presentations received from the community in recent years, council agreed that a review of the Freedom Camping bylaw was required.

“The new bylaw aims to provide a long-term, sustainable approach to the management of freedom camping in Marlborough, aligned with our neighbouring regions of Nelson, Tasman and Kaikōura,” she says.

The Freedom Camping Control Bylaw 2020 is available to read online on the council’s website.

The bylaw suggests closing the controversial Koromiko Recreation Reserve site to conserve the environment, but instead allow up to 10 freedom campers to park off Picton’s High St and Memorial Park between 6pm and 9am.

People need to ensure they make submissions or highlight other issues, Jane says.

“Once the submission period closes on Monday 7 September all submissions will be summarised in preparation for the hearings.

“The Freedom Camping Sub-Committee, chaired by Councillor David Oddie, will then hear submissions over a three-day period during the week of 14 September,” she says.

“Following the hearings, any amendments to the draft Marlborough District Council Freedom Camping Control Bylaw 2020 will be presented for adoption at the Assets and Services Committee meeting on Thursday 1 October.

“The Bylaw will then be ratified at the next scheduled Council meeting and adopted by Council prior to the 2020/2021 summer season.”

Visit Marlborough.govt.nz for further information.

Some of Blenheim’s old parking meters have been sold to Ashburton Council. Photo: File.

Marlborough earns extra coin selling ‘lollipop’ parking meters to Ashburton

A handful of Blenheim’s bruised and battered old lollipop meters are set for a swansong further south after being saved from the scrap heap.

The Marlborough District Council has managed to sell 21 of its coin-operated Duncan ‘lollipop’ meters to Ashburton, recycling the remaining 299 for free at a metal yard.

Ashburton District Council paid $3150 for the old meters, to replace damaged stock or use for parts.

Pay-by-plate meters have been gradually rolled out in Blenheim and Picton since June 2019, after old age and vandalism pushed Blenheim’s lollipop meters to breaking point.

Picton did not have lollipop meters, but its pay-and-display meters were upgraded to pay-by-plate. The final lollipop meter was removed from Blenheim’s streets in June.

Figures obtained under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act (LGOIMA) showed the new pay-by-plate meters were bringing in about an extra $300 a month before coronavirus hit.

Parking revenue was about $83,700 a month in Marlborough when lollipops reigned supreme, and about $84,000 after. This included figures from Blenheim and Picton’s parking meters and for the council’s car park building on Alfred St.

The council was unable to differentiate between parking meter revenue collected by Eftpos in Blenheim and Picton.

On top of the meters, the new PayMyPark phone app, also introduced last June, earned the council $415 in its first month. This jumped to about $4100 the following month, with revenue increasing steadily to $9700 by February, the last full month of data before lockdown.

The app, used by several councils across the country, went offline in March after a ransomware attack but later returned.

Councillor Brian Dawson, who held the parking and central business district portfolios, said feedback on the pay-by-plate and PayMyPark phone app had generally been positive.

“Some people had said they liked being able to just drop a coin into the old machines and go, rather than having to enter in their licence plate. Others have said to me that they really like using the app and it has made parking so much easier.”

The council waived parking fees in town centres during the coronavirus lockdown. It later agreed in May to roll out free parking in Blenheim and Picton to boost local businesses, which was extended in June until September 30.

The switch from lollipop to pay-by-plate was estimated to cost $543,600, well over the $330,000 budget set aside. This included $385,000 to install 42 new pay-by-plate meters, or $9200 each.

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Marlborough Roads manager Steve Murrin says the company will build the roundabout, then seek costs through development contributions. Photo: Chloe Ranford/LDR.

Ever increasing circles as new roundabout gets approval

Blenheim is to get another roundabout to help pacify council ahead of a possible 367-house development.

Thirty hectares of mostly vineyard land on the west side of Battys Rd has been rezoned residential.

But Marlborough Roads manager Steve Murrin says a roundabout must be installed at the intersection before any subdivision can take place.

Marlborough Roads are set to pay for the addition, with costs being recouped from developers.

Environment plan panel member and councillor David Oddie says commissioners proposed developers would cover the costs of installing the Battys Rd and New Renwick Rd intersection roundabout.

“I’m not quite sure how that works, but that was what the proposal said.”

But Steve says he understood Marlborough Roads would build the roundabout, and then seek costs from development contributions.

The roundabout would cater for increased traffic movements from any new housing development, and “some existing pressures”.

Design work on the roundabout has already begun, which could see land purchased to allow it to go ahead.

New subdivisions could be developed by Burleigh Estate Ltd, which owned 14.8ha of the rezoned 30ha, or by their neighbours, the Marris Family Trust, which owned the remaining 16.8ha.

The Marris Family Trust are yet to decide to go ahead with any development.

Speaking on behalf of the Trust, Donna Marris says the trust was aware there would need to be “traffic considerations, including potentially a roundabout solution”, before developments took place.

Burleigh Estate Ltd spokesman Norman Clifford says a roundabout has been needed for “some time”.

“It’s the main road used to get from the south to north of town. It was a very wise decision from the plan’s panel,” he says.

The deadline for appeals on the Proposed Marlborough Environment Plan had been pushed out to April 16, after delays in getting the full and finalised version of the plan out last week.

Resident Richard Peterson was one of many who opposed the plan. Photo: Chloe Ranford/LDR.

Gravel plans withdrawn

Plans to extract gravel from a Wairau Valley riverbed have been withdrawn.

Marlborough Ready Mix Limited lodged a resource consent earlier this year with Marlborough District Council, asking to use a village lane to access a river site for four to six weeks each year.

Thirty-one residents opposed the resource consent, concerned the works could be a safety risk, prevent river access, generate noise and dust, and damage the environment.

The company had hoped to use Church Lane to extract up to 20,000 cubic metres of aggregate a year from “gravel island beaches” along the Wairau River.

A council spokesman confirmed the application had been withdrawn by the company.

‘Master’ plan takes titanic effort

Council staff put in a 19-hour shift, finishing at 3am on Thursday, to get the region’s management “masterplan” finalised in time for its big release later that day.

After years in the making, the Marlborough Environment Plan was released at noon today following a pōwhiri at Blenheim’s Omaka Marae.

The plan brings three of the region’s major management plans into a single document.

Council environment policy manager Pere Hawes says council staff worked late to format the final document.

“It’s part of the job. I’ve been working so hard that I haven’t had time to pause and reflect on its release. But there’s a sense of accomplishment.”

He says the plan’s release was a “New Zealand first” as no other council had successfully combined their plans.

The new plan fused together the Marlborough Regional Policy Statement, the Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan and the Wairau-Awatere Resource Management Plan.

It is expected the new plan will save ratepayers money, as the council would only have to review one plan, instead of three, every few years.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett says Marlborough was the “first one to survive” the fusion.

More than 1300 submissions were made on the plan/

Councillor David Oddie, who sat on the plan’s panel, says the council had originally estimated hearings and deliberations would take two months.

But in the end it took more than two years, he says.

“It’s sucked up my thinking over the years. It’s made being a councillor hard to do. I always had a pile of reading to do.”

Independent commissioner Ron Crosby says he now “had [his] life back”.

“It’s been absolutely all-absorbing in terms of personal time.”

Ron says he would celebrate by taking a one-week vacation with friends.

Former councillor and panel chairman Trevor Hook says staff had spent about 10 years developing what was a “blueprint for the region”.

“Today represents something really special,” he says.

Independent commissioner Rawiri Faulker said he thought iwi and the wider community would be encouraged by the plan’s contents.

“It’s a great starting point for what sustainability will look like in the future.”

Residents are concerned the potential increase in trucks will create more noise, dust and safety risks. Photo: Chloe Ranford.

Rocky road ahead for council over quarry objections

Marlborough District council bosses face a logistical nightmare as plans to dig rock from a rural quarry come under fire from residents.

Simcox Quarry Limited is seeking permission to dig up to 90,000 tonnes of rock a year from the Barracks Road quarry in the Omaka Valley.

But 113 submissions to the resource consent application opposed the plan and just three in support.

A report presented to council’s environment committee last week says officials could “easily require a week” of hearings to listen to the 82 submitters that asked to speak on the consent in person.

“This presented a logistical challenge in terms of planning the hearing, providing a venue that could accommodate such a large number of submitters … and managing the volume of material required for the hearings,” it reads.

The hearings were cut down to two days, with a third set aside “if required”, after the council asked Omaka Valley residents to be represented by one member.

Residents are concerned the works would be a safety risk, generate “unbearable” noise, and “severely deteriorate” lifestyles.

Simcox Construction had mined the quarry since 1998, but management was passed to Simcox Quarry Limited in 2018.

Simcox Quarry asked last June to run the quarry for an “unlimited” time period, estimating it would last for “more than 100 years”.

Brookby Rd residents Mary and Rickard Potez say the plans could see an end to “peace in the valley”.

“It [is] inconceivable and deplorable to grant a legacy to future generations of 100 years of destroyed peace in the valley,” they say.

Simcox say the quarry is crucial for Marlborough’s flood control, has “significant” positive effects, and that dust, noise, and hazards would be well managed.

But fellow Brookby Rd resident and Wairau Hospital orthopedic surgeon Rick Wilson says the possible increase in truck traffic was “abhorrent” and would “inevitably result in accidents”.

“Without being unduly melodramatic, the mix of locals, visitors and heavy vehicles is ‘a tragedy waiting to occur’,” he says.

Fairhall School principal Stephen Crockett says an increase in traffic would heighten the risks for students who lived on or travelled along the trucking routes.

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