Kaimaumau kauri resin and wax extraction consents granted

13 Apr 2018, 9:36 AM

Resource consent has been granted for a commercial kauri resin and wax extraction operation covering roughly 10 percent of the Far North’s 4000-plus hectare Kaimaumau wetland.

Auckland-based Resin & Wax Holdings Ltd applied to the Northland Regional Council (NRC) last year for a raft of consents needed for the staged extraction of resin and wax from peat taken from 400ha of wetland that forms part of a wider almost 950ha block now owned by Ngai Takoto.

Colin Dall, the council’s Group Manager – Regulatory Services, says initially extraction is proposed over an area of up to five hectares annually, increasing to 20ha a year if the operation reaches full production.

He says the recently-issued non-notified consent was granted because – subject to extensive conditions imposed – any adverse effects of the proposed activity on the environment will be “no more than minor”.  The consented area excludes Department of Conservation-managed wetlands to the north, and Kaimaumau’s scientific reserve, both of which the council says will not be affected by the extraction operation.

“A large part of the property involved is already modified due to past activities; however, the applicant will be re-establishing the more ecologically significant areas of existing indigenous vegetation and will also be taking special measures to minimise any adverse effects on any threatened species in the areas they’ll be working in.”

Mr Dall says most of the peat removed from the wetland will be returned to it once the resin and wax has been extracted.  “The peat shrinks by about 10 percent as a result of the resin and wax extraction process, after which it will be re-wetted, returned to roughly the same area it was taken from, topped up with soil and sand and then reinstated with previously stripped topsoil.”

Proposed extraction areas will be confined to places previously disturbed by Kaurex – which mined peat there in the 1980s – and by subsequent farming operations.  (Later stages of the proposed new works will also include some areas of burnt shrubland.)

Mr Dall says the land involved is now owned by Ngai Takoto and covers an area of almost 950ha known as ‘Mekerene’.  Under the proposal, 404ha is proposed for peat extraction operations over four stages, with 107ha proposed to be restored with indigenous vegetation.

He says Ngai Takoto approves of the applicant’s plans and is keen to ensure future productive use of its property.

“The development will provide some land suitable for activities including livestock farming and horticultural enterprises, and any kauri logs and stumps excavated during the peat extraction will also be put aside for use by Ngai Takoto.”

Relatively flat, the land involved is made up of series of low sand ridges interspersed with peat soils generally two to five metres deep.  It adjoins Motutangi Wetland to the north, Lake Waikaramu to the east, Kaimaumau Road to the south and farmland to the west.

He says if extraction was undertaken continuously, the newly-consented operations authorised by the NRC could be completed over about eight years.

“However, following discussions with the applicant, a consent term of 20 years (to 31 October 2038) was considered appropriate as it will allow sufficient time for setup of the processing plant and provide adequate security for investors.”

The various consents allow drainage of land, vegetation clearance and earthworks, taking and use of surface water, damming and diverting surface water (and installing associated structures) and discharging stormwater.  The consent does not authorise any taking of groundwater from the Aupouri aquifer.

Consent conditions include a $20,000 bond and detailed requirements for a range of measures to ensure appropriate ecological, archaeological and cultural protection.  These included a requirement for management plans for ecological monitoring, earthworks and revegetation.

Full details of both the consent application and decision are available from the regional council’s website via: www.nrc.govt.nz/consentdecisions

Meanwhile, Mr Dall says even with the newly-issued regional council consents, the applicant must also obtain a Crown permit before any resin and wax extraction can begin.

“This is because kauri resin and wax are legally classed as minerals and as such the applicant will also need a Crown mining permit.”

He says a previous mining licence covering an area of 1450ha – including the newly-consented area – expired in July last year.

“An application for a new permit is currently being processed separately by New Zealand Petroleum and Minerals, which is part of Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.”