Joint hearings committee grants Opua marina extension

14 Oct 2014

Three independent commissioners have granted consents for a multimillion dollar expansion of the Opua marina, including an almost one-hectare reclamation, extensive dredging and room for 170 new berth spaces.

Applicant Far North Holdings Limited (FNHL) had applied to both the Northland Regional and Far North District Councils for a raft of 20 consents needed for the proposed development.

The new marina facilities will be located in the coastal marine area of the Kawakawa River, extending immediately south of the existing Opua marina to the Ashby's boat yard floating breakwater and pontoon, which will also be extended under the decision.

The applications were publicly notified in April this year with those seeking regional council consents attracting almost 200 submissions; 168 in support, four neutral and 18 opposed. Another 97 submissions were made on the application for district council consents; 85 in support and 12 opposing.

Supporters outlined various reasons for their stance, including the reported millions of dollars in employment and economic opportunities as well as the improved facilities the proposal would generate.

In contrast, opponents outlined a number of concerns including environmental and cultural issues, pollution, public access and effects on local residents. Noise, vibration and traffic issues (especially during construction) were also of concern, as was the adequacy of a Cultural Impact Assessment carried out on behalf of FNHL.

The applications were heard over three days at Paihia in August by a joint hearings committee made up of three independent commissioners and the committee also met again in Whangarei last month to deliberate.

In a just-released decision spanning more than 130-pages, the commissioners grant the consents subject to an extensive list of comprehensive conditions.

In a nutshell, the commissioners – chaired by Alan Watson – found:

  • The proposed site was a logical place for a proposed marina extension, given it lay between the existing marina and other boat yard activities and would have a number of positive or beneficial effects;
  • Given the conditions imposed/measures to be introduced as part of the proposed activities, the range of potential adverse environmental effects had been considered and found to be 'acceptable';
  • The proposal provided for sufficient public access and public facilities;
  • It was consistent with provisions/purposes/principles of the relevant local and national planning rules/laws and was 'acceptable' in terms of district planning considerations relating to traffic, parking and stormwater management;

The commissioners say in reaching their decision, they had due regard to the interests of local Maori.

"A number of the conditions on the consents relate to matters of concern, such as potential pollution and rationalisation of pile and swing moorings. There are also some specific conditions addressing Maori interests including provision for continuing dialogue with iwi interests."

Consent for the reclamation is permanent, while the bulk of the remaining resource consents will run until mid-2049. The exceptions are several relating to Ashby's boat yard, which will expire between 2019 and 2033 to be consistent with the yard's existing consents.

As well as the consents for the 170 new vessel berths, the decision allows for an almost one hectare reclamation to support new facilities associated with the marina, including a hard stand for boat maintenance, parking and three new buildings for marine service facilities, commercial retail and accommodation.

It also allows for dredging of approximately 32,200 cubic metres of seabed within the proposed marina's 6.2ha footprint and for Ashby's existing 90-metre long terminal pontoon to be removed and the main pier to be extended by 43 metres into the Kawakawa River.

The commissioners' decision can be appealed to the Environment Court within 15 working days.