ONTRACK has given itself resource consent approval to reopen the Waiareka-Weston railway branch line, a vital component of a new $400 million cement plant proposed by Holcim (New Zealand) Ltd in the Waiareka Valley.
But it will not end there, as opponents of the cement plant plan to appeal the approval to the Environment Court.
That appeal will be lumped together with appeals against Holcim receiving resource consent from the Waitaki District and Otago Regional Council’s to build and operate the plant, just west of Weston on the Weston-Ngapara Rd.
The railway branch line was closed in 1997 and the lines lifted in 1999, but its owner, the then New Zealand Railways, retained ownership in case it was ever needed for a cement plant.
The branch line needed to be reopened for the construction of the cement plant and to then transport bulk cement to the Timaru port.
However, when the Waitaki district plan was reviewed in 1993, the designation was not properly recorded. OnTrack needed to have it redesignated before it could be used.
Independent commissioner Allan Cubitt recommended OnTrack grant the designation, subject to conditions.
Because OnTrack is a requiring authority under the Resource Management Act, it requested the Waitaki council to designate the branch line. But as a requiring authority, OnTrack gets to make the final decision.
Last week OnTrack notified the council it accepted Mr Cubitt’s recommendation, including all the conditions he laid down.
Yesterday, the Waiareka Valley Preservation Society, which opposed reopening the branch line and the cement plant, said it would appeal the decision.