By ROBYN BRISTOW AND SHELLEY TOPP
A tightknit group of Rangiora residents, who rallied, petitioned and formed an incorporated society to fight a proposed quarry at the Rangiora Racecourse, are rejoicing.
Applications by Taggart Earthmoving Ltd to quarry the racecourse have been declined by independent commissioners appointed by Environment Canterbury and the Waimakariri District Council to hear the applications.
Faye Brock, president of the Stop Rangiora Racecourse Quarry (SRRQ), says common sense has prevailed.
“This noxious quarry would have caused significant negative impacts,” she says.
Tracey Dimmock-Rump, the Rangiora woman who started an online petition last year to make people aware of the proposal, says she is “over the moon” its been declined.
“Everyone involved in the protest should be so proud of themselves.
“We stood together and we won a battle.
“What a cool little community we live in,” she says.
“Taggart need to drop the proposal, take it on the chin and respect what the community has made clear do not want a quarry in their neighbourhood.”
The two women who did the hard yards taking the petition to the people on the streets of Rangiora, Jill Robertson and Marilyn Davison were also excited by the decision.
“It was a lot of hard work but well worth the effort,” Jill said.
David Patrick, a SRRQ member says it was always a “crazy idea”.
“Suggesting a working racecourse could become a quarry without any evidence or analysis to prove compatibility between horse racing, training and an operational quarry was negligent by the applicant.”
SRRQ committee member Julie Lamplugh, says the science behind many of the arguments for mitigation, presented during the hearing, were weak and that there were major disagreements between the applicant, the expert witnesses and community submitters.
The Best Practice Guidelines developed by the NZ Quarry Association, Local Government New Zealand and the Ministry for the Environment were totally ignored by the applicant, and the Environment Canterbury and the Waimakariri District Council, she says.
SRRQ deputy president John Mather is pleased, and relieved, but also surprised. He and others in the group, spent months meticulously preparing their opposition to the quarry and even though they knew they had a strong case, they were not confident of what the final decision would be.
“We prepared for a decision that went either way.
“But I am very pleased the applications were declined.”
Mr Mather believes a quote used by Nicki McKay in her submission “complexity is the enemy of execution” commissioners ruling on the application, that the quarry proposal was unworkable and should not be approved.
The quote, which came from Chiefs co-captain Brad Weber, in his post-game interview after beating the Crusaders earlier this year, was quoted by the commissioners in their report. Mr Mather says it was used as a succinct way of summarising the extraordinary protocols the applicant was proposing to minimise risk from back-fill.
The issues associated with Section 21 of the 2020 Racing Industry Act were not resolved or even considered during the hearing process other than noting the applicant still had a responsibility to have approval, he says.
The land is owned by the Rangiora Harness Racing Club and the Canterbury Jockey Club. However, under Section 21 of the Racing Industry Act the clubs do not have the authority to sell, lease or allow an encumbrance on their land.
‘‘Approval would still have been required from the respective Racing Codes and their obligations and responsibilities under the Racing Industry Act would make giving approval very difficult, if not impossible.’’
The decision was released last Friday with commission chair Paul Rogers and commissioner John Eseli, saying the potential risks to groundwater contamination, and contamination of
drinking water supplies down-gradient of the site were unacceptable.
‘‘If these risks eventuate we are concerned about the consequences, particularly for the Rangiora backup community supply options.
‘‘We find that the focus of the proposal and conditions should be strongly on prevention of contamination of groundwater in this highly sensitive environment,’’ the commissioners say.
The applicant hadn’t clearly demonstrated the ability to adequately manage excavation depth relative to real-time groundwater levels at the site, or provide sufficient information on forecasted groundwater levels, and the management of activities in response to the levels.
The commissioners in their reserved decision said they were not satisfied evidence they considered sufficiently demonstrated the proposal, inclusive of conditions, would safeguard the life supporting capacity of water, or that adverse effects on groundwater and drinking water would be avoided, remedied or mitigated to the extent required to support the granting the consent.
Jim Gerard, chair of the Rangiora-Ashley Community Board, describes the result as ‘‘a victory for people power’’.
In his 37 years involved in the Rangiora community he could not recall an issue where the community had put so much into opposing a proposal they believed was wrong.
‘‘Their strong efforts, and that of the Rangiora-Ashley Community Board, in opposition, and the efforts and input the community put into the hearing, has seen an outcome that surely sees people power and common sense prevail,’’ he says.
‘‘It should be a clear sign to the parties involved in the application not to appeal this decision. Their community simply does not support a quarry on the
racecourse,’’ he says.
Another opponent, Sue Johnson, says the decision was fantastic news. ‘‘It was a ludicrous application anyway and if it was approved it would have set a precedent for companies to put quarries anywhere,’’ she
says. The decision showed that ‘‘the little person does have rights and democracy does work.’’ She is not planning on celebrating the result just yet.
‘‘We are not over the line yet because they still have a15 working day right of appeal,’’ Sue says.