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.

LDR - Local Democracy Reporting

Council cover their base

Work has begun on replacing part of the aging roof at Marlborough District Council as a $750,000 makeover begins.

The 46-year-old roof was proving too expensive to keep patching up.

In 2018 investigators discovered it had started to sag, causing water damage to walls, ceilings, carpet and lighting.

Council economic, community and support services manager Dean Heiford says council chambers would be “a bit noisy” during the roof repairs but could still be used.

He says one of the council’s resource consent hearings would be held off site, likely at Scenic Hotel Marlborough, in Blenheim.

Council have opted to build a new timber and steel roof structure and membrane over the current timber-framed roof, using the old structure to support the new one.

Water-damaged walls on the ground floor of the building will also be repaired.

Asbestos discovered in wall claddings would be removed and disposed of.

Council will also upgrade windows and cladding at the top level, and improve the fire escape.

Last August, the roof replacement was estimated to cost about $400,000 but the figure doubled thanks to window replacements, asbestos removal and the “complexity of [the] job”.

Dean says work would run from February to “take advantage of the weather”, and to fit in with contractors and suppliers.

The council announced a tender last August, requesting information and pricing on replacing the roof, after it was issued a building consent to undertake repairs last May. It received three responses.

LDR - Local Democracy Reporting

Assets and services manager Richard Coningham. Photo: Supplied.

Council to get picky over Potholes

Paula Hulburt and Chloe Ranford/LDR

Problematic potholes across the region could be getting fixed faster.

Marlborough District Council has awarded a seven-year road maintenance and renewal contract worth $160 million jointly to Fulton Hogan and HEB.

And service staff have pledged to put “greater emphasis” on ridding the region of potholes.

Assets and services manager Richard Coningham says there will also be more road inspections.

“There will also be increased CBD street cleaning and unsealed road and motorcycle route maintenance.

“Greater emphasis will also be placed on maintaining Marlborough Sounds’ roads,” he says.

Council invests over $12 million each year in roading maintenance and renewal projects around the Marlborough region.

As the owner of the local roading network, council is responsible for maintaining 242km of footpaths, 917km of sealed roads, 630km of unsealed roads and 367 bridges.

“We’ve worked with Marlborough Roads to ensure we are getting good value from this contract – we’ve kept any cost increases to a minimum,” Richard says.

New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) top of the south system manager Andrew James presented his report on the roading contract to the council’s assets and services committee meeting on Thursday.

He says he expects to see a lift in performance.

Under the new contract, footpaths in Picton and Blenheim’s town centres would be cleaned “at least once a week” by a scrubbing machine.

Picton Business Group chairman Graham Gosling floated the idea during last year’s annual plan.

​Councillor Gerald Hope says Blenheim’s town centre was looking a bit dowdy.

“Look at the amphitheatre … The synthetic grass is filthy, and the birds don’t help. As good as the contract is going to be, we have to lift the standard in the CBD,” he says.

The contract starts on 1 April 2020.

Mark Smith Reserve in Blenheim is one of four parks set to benefit from an upgrade. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Cash boost child’s play for council

A Picton playground will get a $60,000 revamp in a bid to make it accessible to all children.

Victoria Domain play area off Hampden Street is set for an upgrade which will include a new basket swing.

The swing makes it easier for children of all abilities to play together.

The old black matting will also be replaced with bark to make it safer and improve appearance.

Marlborough District Council’s Assets and Services Committee has agreed to fund improvements to the tune of $241,000 across four parks.

Deputy Mayor Nadine Taylor says funding for the upgrades was allocated at the Land Subdivision Account meeting in August last year.

“These upgrades are really great news for families and children across Marlborough and follow the opening of new playground facilities at Pollard Park, Renwick Domain and Mark Smith Reserve last year.”

Westwood Reserve, Ballinger Park and Mark Smith Reserve in Blenheim will all benefit from the funding boost.

The new park Westwood Reserve has been in the pipeline since the subdivision was developed in 2016.

Council staff have been working with community representatives on a suitable playground design.

The new playground will feature a landslide platform, climbing wall, fireman’s pole and a timber-framed swing.

A new flying fox will go up in Ballinger Park off of Budge Street and a new pathway at Mark Smith Reserve will be built to connect to the Taylor River tracks.

The committee decision is subject to Council approval on 27 February.

Marlborough District Council solid waste manager Alex McNeil at Blenheim’s recycling centre. Photo: Matt Brown.

Bigger bunker a boom for festive season

A giant new bunker used for recycled glass is open for empties – just in time for the busy festive season.

The Blenheim Resource Recovery Centre has nearly doubled its glass recycling capabilities thanks to a funds boost.

A $15,000 grant from the Glass Packaging Forum (GPF) plus $50,000 from Marlborough District Council paid for the new bunker.

Council solid waste manager Alec McNeil says that at this time of year the old bunkers would quickly full up.

However, by increasing the bunker size by 80 per cent, this should no longer be an issue, he says.

“The additional storage capacity for glass will ensure that the quality of cullet (recycled glass) being returned to O-I New Zealand (in Auckland) for processing is not compromised,” he says.

O-I New Zealand is the country’s only container glass manufacturer and uses recycled glass to make new bottles.

Glass must be sorted into clear, green and brown before it can be used to make new glass bottles.

Glass Packaging Forum Scheme Manager Dominic Salmon says the centre plays an important role in getting cullet from the South Island to Auckland.

“Funding projects like this, which result in improving the quality and quantity of glass available for recycling is a main objective of the GPF,” he says.

The GPF has help fund other projects in Marlborough, including rural recycling containers in Seddon, Okiwi Bay, Awatere Valley and Oyster Bay, as well as the new recycling hub at Havelock Marina.

It’s hoped more staff on the ground will also help put an end to any anti-social behaviour. Photo: Supplied.

Ranger number boost in region

Extra council staff will be out over summer, doubling the region’s rangers.

Marlborough District Council got a funding boost of $183,610 to appoint two more rangers over the busy summer period, taking the total to four.

Rangers will visit camp sites and other spots to ensure things are running smoothly.

And it’s hoped more staff on the ground will also help put an end to any anti-social behaviour as they encourage people to be responsible campers.

Council’s reserves and amenities manager Jane Tito says there has been a big increase in the number of visitors camping at Marlborough’s responsible camping sites – up from 7,000 in 2016 to 12,000 in 2018.

“On top of the funding for additional rangers, council was also successful in getting funds of $25,000 from central Government’s Tourism Infrastructure Fund for a feasibility study on a long-term, sustainable approach to the management of responsible camping sites in Marlborough,” Jane says.

The study will also include consultation with iwi, the camping and motorhome associations and other interested groups.

Council’s Freedom Camping Bylaw 2012 was last reviewed in 2016 and the new review is scheduled to commence in July 2020, following the results of the study.

Charlie Chambers, 5, “loves” the massive Christmas tree in the Blenheim town centre, especially the “big, giant sparkly star”. Photo: Matt Brown.

Council splash out on big-budget baubles

Christmas cheer comes at a cost – as council staff reveal the price of decorations in the Blenheim CBD.

The 20-metre tall Chinese-bought Christmas tree was bought in late 2015, just in time for the yule season.

But four years on – the “faded” baubles have spurred council to sink more than $10,000 on new decorations.

Marlborough District Council reserves and amenities officer Robert Hutchinson says the region’s famously sunny weather is to blame.

“The display had lost its bite,” he says.

New baubles for the Christmas tree in the Blenheim CBD cost more than $10,000. Photo: Matt Brown.
New baubles for the Christmas tree in the Blenheim CBD cost more than $10,000. Photo: Matt Brown.

The tree, baubles and lights cost council more than $50,000 in 2015.

Robert says the red and gold baubles didn’t last as long as anticipated.

“The baubles should last five years,” he says.

“The red faded quite badly; the weather has these effects.”

Staff were hard at work last week putting the tree up in the town’s central business district where it got plenty of attention.

Blenheim man Simon Green says he liked the decorations.

“It is what it is,” he says. “[Council] weren’t going to get decorations from Kmart, were they?”

But Alicia Oliver was highly critical of what she thought was unnecessary spending.

“There are 135 homeless people sleeping rough,” she says. “Why spend money on decorations?”

“There are people without shelter or food.”

The tree itself has a 15-year lifespan, but Robert says so far, it’s standing up well to the punishing climate.

The 40 four-metre-long strings of blue and green baubles were purchased from Celebration Group, in Auckland, for $10560.

Robert says considering the length of the strands of bauble, 160 metres, the cost is “pretty small”.

“We could have put 20 strands on there, but it wouldn’t look very good,” he says.

The replacement decorations fall within the Christmas decoration budget, $20,000 per year for street decorations in Blenheim and Picton.

The budget includes an electrician and staff to wire and erect the tree.

Robert says they will watch and see the effect of weathering on the new green and blue baubles.

If they fade, he says council will look at new colours.

The 93-year-old former nurses’ home at Wairau Hospital is being demolished. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Nurses’ home gutted as demolition begins

Demolition work has begun on one of Blenheim’s oldest heritage buildings, spelling the end of an era for the local landmark.

Workers moved in on the derelict Wairau nurses’ home last week to start stripping out the interior.

Specialists will then be called in to remove a significant amount of potentially dangerous asbestos discovered inside the 93-year-old building.

The red-bricked facility in the grounds of Wairau Hospital has lain empty for almost six years, costing health bosses around $30,000 to keep the building fenced off.

Nelson Marlborough health finance performance and facilities general manager Eric Sinclair says work is expected to be finished by March next year.

The building has sat vacant for several years. Photo: Paula Hulburt.
The building has sat vacant for several years. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Around $1million has been earmarked to pay for the work.

“Demotion of the Nurses Home at Wairau will take place over the next few months.

“Initially a soft demolition will occur – which is the removal of things like carpets, doors, toilets, pipes and roofing iron. After that the bigger machines come to site to deconstruct the larger elements,” he says.

Concerns over asbestos and seismic rating issues meant the former home would cost too much to address accessibility and fire safety problems.

Nelson Marlborough District Board staff decided demolition was ultimately a better use of public health funds.

Nelson Marlborough health finance performance and facilities general manager Eric Sinclair. Photo: Supplied.
Nelson Marlborough health finance performance and facilities general manager Eric Sinclair. Photo: Supplied.

The building’s foundation stone will be kept and installed with other historic foundation stones.

There is nothing else nothing else considered salvageable, Eric says.

“There are no other features considered worth saving on the house as the building was utilitarian in its original design.

“From it’s opening in 1926 the building provided a significant home and workplace for many staff who hold fond memories and interesting stories.”

There are several options being considered for the site when it is cleared.

The land could potentially be used for expansion in the future.

“A number of options are being considered but there is no urgency to determine future use.

“It is important to note that the location of the old nurses’ home was determined as the zone where any future expansion of Wairau Hospital would occur when the site master planning work was completed prior to the rebuild of the Wairau hospital 10 years ago.

“So, any use of the location will need to be cognisant of this master planning,” Eric says.

Increased access to some east coast beaches is threatening the burgeon recovery of the quake damaged landscape. Photo: Matt Brown.

Council controversy over plan to ban drivers from beaches

A controversial bylaw which may ban drivers from beaches along a 45-kilometre stretch of coastline has been given the go ahead by council.

Marlborough District Council staff agreed earlier this week to draw up a bylaw banning drivers from the Awatere River mouth to the Ure River mouth.

The move comes after concerned residents implored council to take action to protect threatened indigenous species.

A bylaw restricting access to a 45-kilometre stretch of coastline has been given the go ahead by council. Photo: Matt Brown.
A bylaw restricting access to a 45-kilometre stretch of coastline has been given the go ahead by council. Photo: Matt Brown.

But the plan has “staggered” some of those who routinely use some of the access roads and beaches.

Council strategic planner Sarah Edmonds says increased access was hampering the recovery of the environment.

“There will be long-term damage if vehicle access continues.

In a report presented to council’s planning, finance and communities committee on Thursday, Sarah says the council has a “duty” to control vehicle access.

The report proposed cutting off beach access to vehicles, from Redwood Pass to Ward, and introducing a speed limit at Marfells Beach and Ward Beach, where boats could still be launched.

The bylaw would also restrict vehicles on unformed roads.

Marlborough Angling and Surfcasting Club president David Miller says he was “staggered” the bylaw was approved.

“I can’t believe it. They can’t close beaches off like that.”

David, who fished along the stretch at least 10 times a year, was also part of a group that cycled the coastline.

“Recently we cycled to the lighthouse and had a picnic. We were on the sand, so we were no damage to the environment.”

He had previously attended a meeting in Ward where members had discussed their concerns about quad bikes running over dotterel birds and their nests, before suggesting a vehicle ban.

“I said all beaches are legally public roads and that the council didn’t have the authority to restrict access to a beach like that.”

He would encourage the club’s 70 members to object during the bylaw’s consultation period, which had not yet been given a set date, he says.

A fisherman, who did not want to be named, said someone would end up “drowning or getting hurt” trying to access areas on their boat close to reefs, which were previously accessible on a quad.

“The new bylaw means you can only launch small boats from, say, Marfells Beach, but it’s rough there at the best of times.”

Forest and Bird top of the south regional manager Debs Martin said the news was received with excitment, but resignation.

“We know we’ll have another summer of damage along the shore in the interim, while the bylaw is being drafted.”

Councillor Cynthia Brooks says it was a “significant day” for the council.

“There’s a lot of history around vehicle use on the coastline, but it’s not the coastline it was three years ago, and it’s under threat.

“It’s one of the few wildernesses left in this country.”

LDR - Local Democracy Reporting

Biddy Kate's owner Terry Sloan. Photo: Matt Brown.

CBD apartment complaint quashed

A bar owner who feared a proposed apartment development would mean noise complaints has lost his bid to stop the plan going head.

Hotel owner Terry Sloan, whose pub, Biddy Kate’s, sits directly opposite the site of the proposed apartments, was worried future tenants would find it too noisy.

But a decision by a council-appointed commissioner found the pub, which includes an upstairs backpackers, was unlikely to be the target of noise gripes.

He highlighted that the pub was already able to operate with “noise sensitive activity” – its own visitor accommodation.

In his official decision, commissioner Julian Ironside says the decision rested on whether Biddy Kate’s would suffer unreasonable constraints from residential use of the Porse building.

“I recognise that permanent residents may have or develop different expectations in terms of a night-time noise environment,” Julian says.

“However, I do not consider that the establishment of residential activity in the Porse building is contrary to the expectations for the Central Business Zone or is incompatible with the business activities undertaken on the Criterion Hotel site.

“The issue of night-time noise is in my view adequately addressed by the refurbishment details for the proposed apartments.”

The apartments ranging in floor area from 62 square metres to 110 square metres, have been in the pipeline for building owners TH Barnes & Co since late last year.

Consents show vacant shop frontage on the street could be converted to a car parking garage and storage for each of the units.

The car parking garage entrance would require the loading zone on the street to be moved or removed.

Originally built for the Inland Revenue Department in 1987, the government agency downsized and quit the region shortly after completion.

Since then, the building has been largely vacant.

Council documents show TH Barnes & Co engaged a lawyer to draft a ‘Noise and Nuisance’ agreement that could be signed by both parties ahead of the development.

The documents were not signed by Terry, it says.

Plans for the apartment include double glazed windows to minimise sound intrusion and an acoustic engineer’s report found the apartments comply with the noise rule for residential activity within the CBD.