Hearing continues with expert witnesses

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EXPERT witnesses in support of the Otakiri Springs bottling plant expansion shared their evidence at the Environment Court hearing yesterday.

Day two of a five-day appeal hearing into the decision to grant consent for the expansion included the examination of witnesses called by Creswell NZ legal representative David Randal.

Two environmental acoustics noise specialists and a landscape designer took the stand having been part of planning conferences in relation to Creswell NZ’s application to expand the Otakiri Springs water bottling plant, owned by Chinese company Nongfu Spring.

The witnesses were questioned about sound and landscape nuisances and disturbance to nearby residents.

Environmental acoustics noise specialists Nevil Hegley and Dr Stephen Chiles reiterated their conclusions that the expansion and operation of the plant would cause less than minor and minor noise and disturbance effects respectively.

Barrister Rob Enright, on behalf of appellant Sustainable Otakiri, questioned the level of protection residents required in relation to industrial noise control and traffic movement.

His examination focused on aesthetic effects on the rural area, in relation to the Resource Management Act’s amenity values.

He said there would need to be a greater degree of protection than the minimum. Lower noise levels might be appropriate, depending on local conditions and community expectations.

“The residents know the sound environment well,” Mr Enright said.

Mr Hegley agreed noise conditions could be more stringent and should be 50 decibels rather than 55 but there would be less than minor effects on residents.

In relation to traffic movements, Mr Enright highlighted an assessment done on Johnson Road, Otakiri that said less than 100 vehicles used the road a day.

“There will be a degree of change in terms of traffic. There will be truck movement every three minutes during relevant daylight hours. Do you accept it’s annoying to the residents?” he asked.

Mr Hegley responded that “some residents will find any noise not to their liking”.

Mr Chiles agreed that residents had their own view on noise and traffic nuisances but from his perspective, the operation would cause minor affects to the acoustic environment.

He described the existing noise environment as a typical working rural environment.

Mr Enright questioned Mr Chiles on the increased traffic movements that could be a source of annoyance and concern to his clients.

Mr Chiles said it would cause a minor affect, given the separation of the houses and road and control on a truck’s speed and driver behaviour. He also said a road surface upgrade would mitigate the risk of noise disturbance.

Mr Chiles suggested trucks travel at a speed limit of 40 kmh, instead of 60kmh.

“When a truck is travelling on a straight road, 60kmh is fine. It’s the acceleration and deceleration that makes the noise.”

His recommendation of 40kmh was to eliminate the need for drivers to decelerate coming to a corner and accelerating again.

“It’s about trying to set out a framework in which driving well will be encouraged.”

In relation to operation noise, Mr Chiles also commented on a condition that Creswell voluntarily double-glaze nearby houses.

“It would reduce sound levels significantly inside the house, but I would rather deal with the source like the road and driver behaviour.”

He also spoke about a wall planned as a noise barrier to reduce sound to neighbours and said it would have a beneficial effect.

Landscape architect Wade Robertson talked about strategic vegetation planting for screening the site.

He said the landscape plan included a variety of trees, some that grew to two metres, placed on and off the site to minimise visual effects.

The hearing continued with Bay of Plenty Regional Council legal representative Mary Hill’s submission and single witness.

Today, the hearing resumes at Te Manuka Tutahi Marae, Whakatane from 9am.

Te Runanga o Ngati Awa’s submission will be heard, along with other witnesses and parties that have said they wish to present on the marae.

haylee.king@thebeacon.co.nz

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