In early January 2021, Kokiri Lime Company Ltd (Kokiri) lodged an application for an access arrangement, to quarry rock for river engineering works in Westland. The proposed site for the quarry is covered by old-growth native forest, and sits within the Te Wahipounamu UNESCO World Heritage Area.
FMC has submitted on the proposal.
We object to the proposed application on the following grounds:
- The public road Kokiri is seeking an access arrangement for is the only way to reach the vast area between the Karangarua River and Saltwater Creek, and is frequently used by hunters. In general, mines on public conservation land require exclusive access due to health and safety requirements. The Kokiri application contains no information on how recreational access would be maintained.
- The quarry would regularly require blasting to loosen rock; blasting noise can travel in excess of 10km. The Copland Track is just 4.5km away. The application states that “Rock Blasting (explosives) will only occur between the hours of 8.00am and 6.00pm, Monday – Saturday”. FMC questions its use of the word ‘only’. In fact, a great deal of noise would interrupt the visitor experience, and would occur at the very time that trampers would be in the area.
- The area in question is within the Cook to Haast River Conservation Area. Stewardship land is provided for in the Conservation Act 1987: Every stewardship area shall so be managed that its natural and historic resources are protected (Part 5 s25). Stewardship land was set aside in 1987 awaiting classification based on its values. In this case, the area contains high natural values including podocarp tree specimens in excess of 500 years old.
- The activities in this application can be undertaken outside of public conservation land. There are several existing rock quarries on private land in South Westland providing rock for protection works.
- The Area is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – Te Wāhipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area – due to its internationally significant natural values, including pristine forests. When an area is given World Heritage status, the expectation is that these resources will remain protected. If they become reduced or lose their protection, World Heritage status can be lost. FMC also notes that DOC has not notified (or had any correspondence with) UNESCO on Kokiri’s application.
- FMC notes that the Climate Change Commission recently released its draft advice for 2021. The strategy of moving towards a low carbon economy relies heavily on using native forests to sequester carbon. In fact, it suggests expanding our native forests significantly through planting. The loss of 14 ha of old growth forest is a step in the wrong direction regarding New Zealand’s carbon objectives.
- The current amount of short-term rock protection on the West Coast appears unsustainable. Projects such as shoring up the road to Franz Josef Glacier are estimated to have a life span of just a few years, offering only short-term solutions in a losing battle against flood events and erosion. A long-term strategic plan for rock protection and prioritisation for the region needs to be developed to ensure meaningful use of finite resources.
All photographs (c) Neil Silverwood